Crowdsourcing Cures for Childhood Cancer [VIDEO]

by St. Baldrick's Foundation
December 19, 2014

What do social media and Star Trek have to do with childhood cancer? Dr. Friend explains in this video. You make this possible. Fund research.

These days, many of us connect with friends and family through social networks like Facebook and Twitter. But in the scientific world, staying connected can be a real challenge.

Real time discoveries can’t be found with a quick Google search or tweet. With no official information sharing system in place, big medical breakthroughs can take years to be shared between institutions. And that means that some cancer patients may be missing out on the latest treatments.

That’s one reason why St. Baldrick’s is supporting the work of Dr. Stephen Friend and the AML Federation, a group that is focused on the future of care — including their Star-Trek-inspired name.

They’re boldly going where no research has gone before by creating new ways to understand and treat cancer patients based on biology and clinical responses. Earlier this year, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation awarded Dr. Friend and his team the first-ever Genius Award to further their research.

The goal? Create a process to give personalized treatment to children with cancer, starting with patients who have acute myeloid leukemia, or AML. This brand new way of sharing information could give kids with cancer better treatment options, change the way drugs are tested, and ultimately, save more lives.

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Today, only about half of children newly diagnosed with AML will survive. And that survival is achieved with incredibly intense treatment that comes with many short and long-term side effects. For those whose cancers have relapsed, or for patients whose cancers do not respond to treatment, the survival rate is less than 35%.

Historically, treatment protocols can take years to reach a patient in need. It is a slow and cautious process: from discovery to publication to evaluation, and finally reported on by other researchers.

That’s where the AML Federation is making a difference. With researchers from Sage Bionetworks in Seattle, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Oregon Health Sciences Center, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and Institute for Molecular Medicine Finland, the AML Federation is using a cloud-based platform called Synapse where researchers can virtually share important findings and can build upon each other’s insights. This allows their ideas to collide frequently and early, essentially crowdsourcing cancer cures.

Patients will benefit from the knowledge gained from many centers and cancer experts, not just from the center where their genetic samples were taken. Children fighting this disease will no longer have to wait years to participate in cutting edge research, but will be able to receive a tailored protocol that was built from the immediate findings of other researchers to offer the best treatment option.

Dr. Friend and his colleagues hope that their research will add up to one result: allowing kids with cancer to live long and prosper.

You make cures possible for kids with cancer. Make a donation and fund research for childhood cancers.

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