We were deeply moved by your letter and please accept our sincere sympathies for your losses – both of your parents, and of your son. I read your “Another Inconvenient Truth”
piece, and the fact that AJ was an extraordinary young man is abundantly clear. I am a cancer survivor, having been diagnosed at age 30; but I cannot begin to imagine the pain endured by any parent who loses a child.
On the issue of funding pediatric cancer research, we hear you and share your concerns. Stand Up To Cancer recognizes the critical importance of research to prevent, diagnose and treat pediatric cancers.
I’d like to provide some background on the process through which the Dream Teams were selected. Requirements included that the teams be comprised of expert investigators from different institutions and different disciplines, with the projects leading to patient involvement within a two-to-three year timeframe. In response to the “call for ideas” issued to the scientific community, we received very few pediatric concepts. In fact, only 3 of 237 submissions were for pediatric cancer research.
The SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, assisted by our partner, the American Association for Cancer Research, analyzed each proposal in a way that was rigorous, thorough and fair. In the final evaluation, the Dream Teams with the strongest chance of success were funded.
Please know, the Dream Team announcement was just the beginning of our work. We plan to make another round of 10 to 12 research grants this fall – Innovative Research Grants. In order to increase the number of applicants focusing on cancers that affect children, the SU2C Executive Leadership Council asked the SAC and AACR to issue a second call for ideas, this time appealing to the directors of major academic centers around the country that specialize in cancer research in both adults and children, asking them to make sure the individuals on their staffs doing the most promising research focusing on pediatric cancer applied. We’re happy to report that the number of pediatric submissions more than quadrupled.
The SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee is in the midst of its systematic review of all submissions for these grants.
While it is true that children do not get many of the cancers specifically addressed by the initial Dream Team grants, four of the five Dream Teams are engaged in research that has a significant potential to impact a broad spectrum of cancers, including those which affect children. Researchers now believe that most or all cancers have some epigenetic basis, that all cancers shed circulating tumor cells very early in their history, that all cancers require specific nutrients and that the PI3 Kinase pathway or similar series of genetic events affect the development and growth of many malignancies. Improving our understanding of these basic biological and genetic mechanisms will lead to new methods of detecting cancers early, deciding on effective treatments, monitoring those treatments and, perhaps being able to identify individuals of all ages who are at risk for specific cancers.
So the work of the current Dream Teams that it relevant to children is not about “down-sizing” treatments; rather, it has the potential to develop approaches and therapies that will lead to truly personalized medicine -- individual profiles that will allow for tailored therapies, regardless of the age and tumor type of the patient. It is the hope of everyone involved in this research that these new approaches will significantly reduce the short- and long-term effects of cancer treatments that take such a heavy toll on young survivors.
One final and important point is that Stand Up To Cancer is an on-going movement. We expect to make more Innovative Grants next year, and continue to raise funds so we can make additional Dream Team grants. We also continue to generate awareness about cancer’s impact and the need for more research. We would be delighted to work with People Against Childhood Cancer and other organizations focused on pediatric cancers, for example, in highlighting that September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month on our website.
Please feel free to contact me directly at xxx/xxx-xxxx to talk about this idea, or other ways in which we might collaborate.
Again, thank you for getting in touch with us. I hope I have provided some insight. We intend to continue our work until there is an end to cancer of all types, affecting children as well as adults of all ages.
Stand Up To Cancer Executive Director