Research

A Small World Moment at the Think Tank

by Becky C. Weaver, Chief Mission Officer, St. Baldrick's Foundation
December 17, 2014

St. Baldrick’s Chief Philanthropy Officer, Becky Weaver, explains how a timely email led to a big realization. Join us and make a difference for kids with cancer. See ways to get involved.

St. Baldrick's logo

November marked my 10th year with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. And how much has changed since that time!

Back then, we were excited to give over $3 million to support one large grant to the Children’s Oncology Group and our first St. Baldrick’s Fellow, Dr. Sharon Singh.

This year, led by our scientific advisory committee, over 180 physicians and scientists reviewed hundreds of grant applications, allowing us to award over $27 million in childhood cancer research grants in 2014 alone.

Over the last decade, I’ve seen St. Baldrick’s volunteers and donors make possible some amazing research — research that touches nearly every type of cancer in children.

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But there is still so much to do to give kids with cancer the cures they need to live long and healthy lives. I’ll admit that there are moments when our mission to conquer childhood cancer feels daunting.

Thankfully, there are other moments that let me know that together we are making a real difference to change the landscape of the childhood cancer world.

I want to tell you about one of those moments, a “small world moment” that illustrates how connected we in the St. Baldrick’s community are in this fight against childhood cancer.

I was honored to represent the St. Baldrick’s Foundation at three days of meetings in Philadelphia in late October, hosted by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Attending were representatives from research institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and patient advocate groups for this “Think Tank on the Future of Pediatric Cancer Research and Care.”

AACR Think Tank for pediatric cancer

Think tank participants gathered to discuss the future of pediatric cancer research and care. Photo from AACR.org.

Topics discussed during the think tank meetings included relapse issues, survivorship and late effects, access to care, prevention strategies for high-risk populations, precision medicine and clinical genomics, new drug development, bioinformatics and data sharing, developmental biology, genetics and epigenetics, and more.

While checking emails during a break, I saw an update from Katie Arens, who along with her husband, Jim, has a St. Baldrick’s Hero Fund in memory of their son Peyton.

Katie was sharing her excitement at having learned that some of the tissues donated at Peyton’s autopsy had been successfully used to grow cell lines, which will be a resource for researchers everywhere. She was honored to have recently received a call from Dr. Charles Keller, the researcher in Colorado who had made this possible, to thank her.

Peyton Arens

Peyton Arens was 13 when he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of childhood cancer.

I wrote Katie back immediately to tell her that not only was Dr. Keller a past St. Baldrick’s grant recipient, but at that very moment, he was sitting directly across the table from me at the think tank!

In fact, 10 of the participating researchers were current or past St. Baldrick’s grant recipients, and virtually all of the research institutions represented have received St. Baldrick’s funds.

I was especially pleased to see one St. Baldrick’s Scholar there, because while she looked like a recent shavee, I knew her short hair was due to a recent cancer battle of her own.

The meetings concluded with a summary of priorities identified, and a commitment to continue working together to move forward toward cures and long, healthy lives for survivors.

It’s moments like this that remind me that St. Baldrick’s isn’t a “normal” charity. St. Baldrick’s is a place where researchers, families, kids, and a few thousand beautiful, bald people come together to make a difference: to conquer childhood cancers.

What a privilege it has been to serve this community for the past 10 years. Here’s to another year of progress in 2015!

Join us and make a difference for kids with cancer.

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