• Press Release
  • For Immediate Release
  • Media Contact:
    • Michele Franco
    • 626.792.8247 ext. 264
    • michele.franco@stbaldricks.org

Would You Go Bald for Childhood Cancer Research?

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation recognizes its 20th anniversary of shaving heads to support the advancement of pediatric cancer treatments

LOS ANGELES (March 9, 2020) – What would you do if your friends challenged you to give back and how would you do it? Well, three men – Tim Kenny, John Bender, and Enda McDonnell – challenged each other to go bald to raise money for childhood cancer research. Their goal was $17,000. They ended up raising $104,000. Since that inaugural head-shaving event on March 17, 2000, hundreds of thousands of people have gone bald to raise money for pediatric cancer research at St. Baldrick’s events across the country.

Why is funding research so important? Worldwide, a child is diagnosed with cancer every two minutes and in the U.S., one in five kids diagnosed won’t survive.

Twenty years since the first St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event, St. Baldrick’s has grown into the largest non-government funder of childhood cancer research grants and is proud to have played a part in every major advancement in childhood cancer research over the last two decades.

Here are just some of the achievements made possible by St. Baldrick’s funded research:

  • More than 200,000 enrollments of infants, children, teens and young adults fighting cancer on more than 360 clinical trials have been supported by St. Baldrick’s.
  • For the first time in history, a precursor has been found for a childhood cancer. This discovery came from St. Baldrick’s Arceci Innovation Award recipient, Dr. Sam Behjati. While precursors are common in some adult cancers (like moles for melanoma), this has not been true for children. Now researchers can begin to look at early detection and prevention.
  • Survival has increased from 80% to 90% for children with a form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia by using an old drug (Methotrexate) in a new way.
  • Survival has increased from 82% to 94% for children with high-risk non-Hodgkin lymphoma, using Rituximab, a drug previously approved for adult cancers.
  • Researchers can now be trained in pediatric oncology in Africa. In August 2018 the first four graduates came out of the program founded and directed by St. Baldrick’s International Scholar Dr. Joseph Lubega in Uganda. In 2020, the total trained there will reach 16.
  • CAR-T cells are a remarkably effective immunotherapy against blood cancers, but their effect can be transient as the cells become exhausted. Dr. Crystal Mackall, co-leader of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation-Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team, led a study published in Nature in December 2019, showing that a new approach to programming these cancer fighting immune cells in the laboratory can prolong their activity and increase their effectiveness. This could lead to the development of a new generation of CAR T-cells that may be effective even against solid tumors, a far more difficult goal.
  • A new cumulative burden metric developed by St. Baldrick’s Fellow Dr. Nickhill Bhakta allows researchers to measure, for the first time, the true magnitude of long-term effects and disease burden experienced by childhood cancer survivors.

St. Baldrick’s funded researchers have also been instrumental in the approval of FDA drugs for pediatric cancers, such as:

  • Vitrakvi, or larotrectinib – the first drug developed to target a key genetic driver of cancer, rather than a specific type of tumor.
  • Kymriah – the first gene therapy to ever be approved in the U.S., and remarkably its first application was to treat pediatric patients with a type of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
  • Unituxin, or dinutuximab – approved to treat kids with high-risk neuroblastoma, increasing survival from 30 percent to almost 50 percent.
  • Gleevec – approved to treat children newly diagnosed with Philadelphia chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ALL), improving survival from 20% to 70%.

These and many other advances have been made with St. Baldrick’s support.

Although St. Baldrick’s is proud to recognize the 20th anniversary of its head-shaving events, it will hold on celebrating until there are better treatments and cures for all childhood cancers.

St. Baldrick’s will continue to fulfill its mission to defy childhood cancers by supporting the best and brightest researchers working towards innovative treatments. We will continue to fund every stage of research – from the lab to the bedside and back again.

Recognizing the fundamental importance of data, we are funding strategic initiatives that allow researchers worldwide to share and access information to accelerate discovery. Finally, we are committed to continuing to be the largest private funder of the Children’s Oncology Group.

To date, St. Baldrick’s has granted more than $282 million, supporting the best childhood cancer research, wherever it takes place.

St. Baldrick’s applauds its volunteers, donors, advocates and shavees who have helped make a significant impact in the world of childhood cancer. By participating in a St. Baldrick’s head-shaving event or fundraiser, people can raise money for childhood cancer research. Because of this research, children are alive today who had no hope. So far in 2020, more than 17,000 people have registered to shave their heads at more than 800 events, with more volunteers and events registering every day.

Join the fight. Register. Fundraise. Show-up. Shave. You can help kids defy childhood cancers.

Share your support on social media by tagging @StBaldricks and using the hashtags #DFYchildhoodCancers and #StBaldricks.

About St. Baldrick’s Foundation
Every 2 minutes a child somewhere in the world is diagnosed with cancer. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the largest private funder of pediatric cancer research grants, is on a mission to defy childhood cancers by supporting the most promising research to find cures and better treatments for all childhood cancers. When you give to St. Baldrick’s, you don’t just give to one institution–you give to virtually every institution treating kids with cancer across the U.S. and beyond. As a leader in the pediatric cancer community, St. Baldrick’s works tirelessly to ensure that current and future children diagnosed with cancer will have access to the most cutting-edge treatment from the best leaders in the pediatric oncology field. Join us at StBaldricks.org and help #DFYchildhoodCancers.