Now here’s some day-brightening news: The San Luis Obispo-based Kids’ Cancer Research Foundation recently raised and donated $35,000 to the Texas Children’s Cancer Center at the Baylor College of Medicine. The money was raised through the generous offerings of more than 160 local individuals, businesses and the Hind, Hearst and Amgen foundations.
What makes this news even sweeter is that a Houston resident matched the amount for a total of $70,000 to go toward finding a cure for neuroblastoma, a mostly childhood-related form of cancer.
Frank Kalman, who set up the nonprofit research foundation after his daughter, Calli, was diagnosed with the disease some 12 years ago, says the grant will buttress research that’s showing some remarkable results: relapse of the disease among a group of 19 kids has been reduced by 30 percent.
“Results like these are unheard of in pediatric cancer research,” Kalman said.
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Here’s how it works: “Because a cancer cell is the result of one’s own cell going haywire,” Kalman explains, “the immune system cannot identify it as an outside threat. So, doctors fighting neuroblastoma and other cancers like breast cancer have taken a cancerous cell and injected it into a mouse. The mouse’s immune system generates an antibody to fight the cancer. The doctors at Baylor combined the mouse antibody with a child’s immune system’s T cell. The mouse antibody then leads the T cell to the cancer cell that’s then munched by the T cell.”
What’s so promising about this approach is that it doesn’t rely on invasive treatments. The child’s own immune system takes on the cancer battle.
“Treating a developing infant or child with toxic agents and radiation has a far greater negative impact,” Kalman explains, “such as cognitive impairment, hearing loss, organ failure, secondary cancers and complications that result in death.”
In short, the antibody/T cell approach may be a silver bullet in the fight to find a definitive cure for neuroblastoma, but there is a downside: “It’s a little-known fact,” Kalman said, “that pediatric cancer researchers have always been neglected by society, and this is illustrated by the fact that of all of the hundreds of millions of dollars raised for cancer research, pediatric oncologists only see 1 percent of those funds.”
The really heartbreaking reason for such a lack of funding is that the disease predominantly attacks children — who aren’t a powerful lobbying group demanding a cure be sought. In fact, in some circles, children with cancer are seen as collateral damage.
Yet experts in the field of pediatric cancer think that just the opposite approach needs to be taken.
“The most efficient and cost-effective way to fight cancer is through prevention,” said Kalman, who has made it his life’s mission to know everything he can about neuroblastoma and pediatric cancer.
“The latency periods for many cancers can be one to two decades. What that means is that adult cancers start their development in the formative years of a cancer victim’s life. So the more we understand cancer in its infancy and childhood, the sooner intervention can take place.”
The Kids’ Cancer Research Foundation can always use our help in helping others. Your generosity is astounding and appears to be paying off in chasing down a cure for neuroblastoma.
If you’d like to join the fight, you can contact Kalman through his email at firstname.lastname@example.org; or go online to find out more at www.endkidscancer.org; or give him a call at 550-7682.
Reach Bill Morem at email@example.com or 781-7852.