Childhood Cancer

Commemorating International Childhood Cancer Day

by St. Baldrick's Foundation
February 15, 2019

Today, Feb. 15, 2019, marks this year’s International Childhood Cancer Day.

While the St. Baldrick’s Foundation might be thought of as just an American organization, the fact is that the research we fund has global reach – so we thought that we’d share a few snapshots of just how global our organization really is, and how our funding and your support are making a true impact for kids with cancer throughout the world.

Global map showing St. Baldrick's research activity around the world.

Funding the Children’s Oncology Group

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is the largest non-government funder of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), a network of more than 200 research institutions and 9,000 childhood cancer experts across the U.S. and international community.

These institutions conduct cooperative research, giving children the ability to be treated on COG clinical trials closer to home, avoiding the need to travel to distant hospitals for the best care. St. Baldrick’s supports COG institutions in Australia, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and the United States. Learn more about St. Baldrick’s close relationship with the COG.

Pediatric Cancer: 100K Kids Diagnosed in Sub-Saharan Africa Each Year

A story from Uganda provides a little perspective about the importance of international research into the causes of and potential cures for childhood cancers.

Dr. Joseph Lubega is one of the first St. Baldrick’s International Scholars, and an excellent example of how important this funding can be. In 2013, when St. Baldricks’s started funding his research, he was the only trained pediatric oncologist in all of Uganda. Since then, he’s founded and now leads the East Africa Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Fellowship program at Makarere University in Kampala. With the first students graduating from the program in August 2018, Uganda now has not one, but five trained pediatric oncologists.

One reason for the need in Uganda and throughout the continent: in Sub-Saharan Africa, 100,000 children will be diagnosed with some sort of pediatric cancer each year. More than 90% of those children will die – a much higher mortality rate than in the U.S., where 80% of children diagnosed with cancer will survive.

While there are some cancers that no one will survive – regardless of where in the world they live – there are also some cancers that are more prevalent in certain parts of the world. An example is Burkitt lymphoma, which is common in children and happens at a much higher rate in Uganda than the US. Work to identify and treat Burkitt in the 1970s was among the first research to show that cancers can be cured using drugs.

International Scholars Funded by St. Baldrick’s

While International Scholars such as Dr. Lubega are usually trained at a partner institution in the U.S., the program was created so that researchers from countries that the United Nations classifies as “low- or middle-income” can be trained in pediatric oncology, with a commitment to continuing that research in their home country.

Eight International Scholars have been named so far, and each researcher is focusing on cancers that affect children in the parts of the world from which they hail, with studies underway in Asia, Latin America, and Sub-Saharan Africa. You can see a full list of the International Scholars here.

International Partnership Grants: $4.4 Million and Counting

In 2009, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation made its first two international partnership grants: one to the Children’s Cancer Foundation of Hong Kong, and the other to Children with Cancer in the United Kingdom. Currently, the Hong Kong study centers around the treatment of leukemia and its long-term impact, while the UK research aims to treat neuroblastoma through a process called “binding bodies” that would leave healthy tissue unharmed.

These first two projects paved the way for additional international relationships, with $4.4 million funded so far. Other international partnerships, which are the result of St. Baldrick’s fundraising in these countries, include:

• Children’s Cancer Association of Japan, 2010 – researching proton beam treatment specifically for childhood cancers;

• CanKids (India), 2010 – helped India establish research protocols around childhood cancers in the sub-continent;

• German Childhood Cancer Foundation, 2011 – began a research project to classify childhood brain tumors by their unique genetic fingerprint;

• Duke University/National University of Singapore, 2011 – research that, in part, studied the effect of chemotherapy known as Chemotherapy Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN), which can cause pain affecting daily activities in children with cancer;

• Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre, 2014 – funded a skin cancer awareness program called “SunSmart” and other research programs aimed at childhood cancers.

In addition, St. Baldrick’s new Australian partnership with The Kids’ Cancer Project, will help fund bold science at research institutions in that country.

What Happens When St. Baldrick’s Helps One Country That Helps Another?

One overall goal of international research funded through St. Baldrick’s is to do the most benefit in that particular home country. And, sometimes, that country finds its research “twin” in another country, benefiting children with cancer throughout the world.

A unique international partnership of note began in the Netherlands, where, in 2012, St. Baldrick’s began working with an organization called the Princess Maxima Centre for Pediatric Oncology. Now Queen consort of the Netherlands, the wife of King Willem-Alexander has focused that organization’s efforts on a project called the Collaborative Wilms Tumour Africa project.

With a mission to raise pediatric cancer survival rates in children in the nation of Malawi, the program – funded in part by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation – has resulted in a 15% increase in end-of-treatment survival over baseline levels. The Princess Maxima Center for Pediatric Oncology is the twinning center for the program.

St. Baldrick’s Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award

This award, named in honor of pediatric oncologist Robert J. Arceci, is given in the spring to a researcher from the U.S. or Canada, and in the fall to a researcher from another country. The first international recipient, in 2016, was Dr. Sam Behjati, who is based in London and is also researching Wilms tumor. Dr. Behjati says his work could never have been done without support from St. Baldrick’s. (Two subsequent St. Baldrick’s Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award winners have hailed from France and one from Germany.)

How You Can Help

By supporting St. Baldrick’s, you can help fund a variety of childhood cancer research projects throughout the world. While it’s true that the bulk of St. Baldrick’s funds are raised in the United States, the goal is to help create a world free from childhood cancers – and what is learned from research in one country has the potential to benefit kids throughout the world.

You can help by supporting St. Baldrick’s, which directly funds research and clinical trials designed to save the lives of children diagnosed with cancer.

Visit the donate section of our website to make a one-time donation or become a monthly donor. You can also help by registering to volunteer at a St. Baldrick’s event, like its exciting head-shaving fundraisers.

Regardless of how you contribute, you’ll be helping the fight against childhood cancers.

Join the fight against childhood cancer.

Register. Fundraise. Show up and shave.