For kids diagnosed with a rare and fatal type of brain tumor called DIPG, or diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, there is no cure and treatments are heartbreakingly scarce. St. Baldrick’s researcher Dr. Mark Souweidane is on a mission to change the bleak statistics on DIPG survival. Learn about his groundbreaking work so far and what’s coming next.
DIPG life expectancy is devastatingly short — with many kids dying within two years of diagnosis. Dr. Mark Souweidane wants to change that.
For kids with DIPG, treatment with radiation just lets them live a little while longer. Traditional chemo doesn’t work because of the blood-brain barrier. Tumor removal with surgery is out of the question, because the cancer is intertwined with the delicate tissues of the brainstem, which regulates breathing and other vital functions.
So, what does a doctor working on DIPG do to help these kids?
Raymond Chang is a student at Weill Cornell Medical College studying to be a doctor. Thanks to a St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow grant, he’ll be spending his summer researching DIPG, an inoperable and always fatal pediatric brain tumor. Read what Raymond has to say about what led him to DIPG research.
The first time I visited Dr. Souweidane’s lab, I was drawn to a series of banners hanging in the foyer.
Instead of the presentation posters or published work that decorate most lab hallways, these were portraits of beaming kids — tissue donors from the Children’s Brain Tumor Project. Below each portrait were dates of birth and death, and the type of brain tumor that each had been diagnosed with.
Did you know that $5,000 can change the lives of kids with cancer? It’s true — and you helped make it happen!
Say hello to our 2016 Summer Fellow grants!
This year these $5,000 grants are going to 19 institutions, where they will support medical school or college students working on a childhood cancer research project.
Kids are special, and childhood cancers are different than adult cancers. That’s why we’re funding research to find new therapies and cures just for kids.
We asked our researchers, “In the last 10 years, what’s been the greatest achievement in the field of pediatric cancer research?”
Here’s what they had to say.
Maria Rich, a St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow, got the unique chance to present her research at a prominent scientific conference this past weekend. St. Baldrick’s researcher Dr. Giselle Saulnier-Sholler praised the young woman who worked in her lab. “She truly is a brilliant and compassionate researcher who will be a wonderful physician one day.” We think so, too!
St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow Maria Rich in the lab, where she worked with neuroblastoma cells.
Nearing five years cancer free, Daniel Kingsley is determined to help kids with cancer and he’s hit the ground running! The college freshman is going to be working in a research lab as a St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow and plans to pursue medical school. Future St. Baldrick’s researcher? We hope so!
Daniel Kingsley with Dr. Agne Petrosiute, his primary oncologist and a St. Baldrick’s Fellow, and Dr. Alex Huang, who Daniel will be working with as a St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow.
Daniel was 12 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL.
“It was a ‘hits you all at once,’ like a brick wall, kind of feeling,” he said. “It takes the air right out of you, like, ‘Oh shoot, this is really happening.’ You never expect it to happen to you.”
Anthony working in the lab.
“Being a pre-med undergraduate, you have to find many sources of motivation to keep you going throughout the long school year,” said Anthony Hua, a rising senior at the University of California, Los Angeles.
But that motivation wasn’t hard for Anthony to find. One of his biggest sources of inspiration were his memories as a camp counselor at Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, where he spent two weeks in 2012 volunteering with children with cancer.
“It was probably the most exhausting thing I’ve ever done, mentally and physically,” Anthony said. “The kids, some half or a third of my age, have to go through so much.”
Jessica is a 2014 St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow at the University of Iowa. Her St. Baldrick’s grant will support her work on a children’s cancer research project under the guidance of a pediatric oncology expert. See what else the money you’ve raised is doing.
Jessica and her mom in 2002, before her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
As a daughter and a child, I could not comprehend what was happening. Why my mother? Why me? I was traumatized.
Cancer doesn’t just affect the patient — it affects everyone around them.
I can remember crying for days, paralyzed with the fear that when I came home from school or woke up the next morning, my mom wouldn’t be there. I would wake up in the middle of the night, panic stricken, hearing my mom shrieking through a cycle of fears — first that she was dying, and finally that she was dead. In the morning, she would always explain that they were nightmares induced by her chemotherapy, but that didn’t change our reality that if the treatment didn’t work, she could be gone in an instant.
Today, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation announced the 2014 Summer Fellow grants. Each $5,000 award will support a medical student working on a research project under the guidance of a pediatric oncology expert. While the lack of funding for pediatric cancer research might deter some students from choosing that as their specialty, exposing them to work in the field just might give them the push — and the passion — they need to pursue a career in children’s cancer research.
And who knows? One of these young scholars could one day discover a cure for childhood cancer.
While the lion’s share of St. Baldrick’s grants are made in June (and your fundraising now will determine how much will be available!), March ushers in the first round of small grants.
And though they be small, they are mighty! At $5,000 each, the Summer Fellowships granted for 2013 total $110,000, and what these grants can do is so important.
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