For Immediate Release, January 8, 2020
Contact: Karen Revels, Executive Director
CANNONBALL KIDS’ CANCER FOUNDATION AWARDS $565,000 IN INNOVATIVE CANCER RESEARCH GRANTS
ORLANDO, Fla. – Cannonball Kids’ cancer Foundation (CKc) today announced the awarding of $565,000 for four research grants to create 200 options for children battling cancer through clinical trials, programs, and young investigators.
To date, CKc has awarded $2.4 million in childhood cancer research and program support since the organization’s founding in 2015. Including this latest investment, CKc has created 593 treatment options for childhood cancer patients in 25 U.S. states, plus Washington, DC, Canada, Scotland and Switzerland.
“These funds are critical to providing support to the underfunded world of childhood cancer,” stated Michael Wiggins, Chair of CKc’s Board of Directors. “Thanks to our generous donors, and under the guidance of our Scientific Advisory Board, these funds will allow researchers the opportunity to conduct research that will someday secure less toxic, less painful therapies for children with cancer, and drugs and therapies that are developed specifically for children’s forms of cancer.”
CKc’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), comprised of leading investigators specifically in the field of childhood cancer, guides the organization’s team and Executive Board in validating the merits of the science behind the grant proposals it receives. Collectively, the SAB members spend a total of nearly 50 hours of volunteer time each grant cycle reviewing and ranking grant applications to determine which grants to select and ensure CKc is funding the most innovative research. This is the second of two invitation-only grant cycles in 2019, which are based on in-person meetings with researchers and hospital visits. Invitations for the first cycle of 2020 will begin in January.
Despite being the number one disease killer of children in the United States, childhood cancers receive only four percent of federal dollars dedicated to cancer research through the National Cancer Institute. The task of financing research in childhood cancer, and thus improving decades-old treatments, has fallen to individual donors through foundations like CKc. Childhood cancer treatments have gone largely without progressive developments for over 20 years; and, for some forms of childhood cancers, the survival rate is still 0%. CKc is transforming this reality by funding primarily innovative, first-of-its-kind research and educating the public on the realities of childhood cancer, both the rate of survivorship for various cancers and the impact of childhood cancer treatments on survivors.
2019 Cycle 2 Funded Grants
Dr. Theodore Johnson, Children’s Hospital of Georgia and Georgia Cancer Center – ($200,000)
Santiago Estevez Upfront and Progressive Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Trial
Dr. Johnson recently completed the CKc-funded, first-in-children Phase 1 study of the drug Indoximod, which is an oral immunotherapy which was used in conjunction with chemotherapy and individualized radiation plans. The combination was well tolerated and study analysis showed Progression-Free Survival (PFS) markedly superior to historical data using chemotherapy alone. Now, Dr. Johnson is using a similar multi-modal method to move his study to Phase 2, with the hope of fundamentally altering how we treat children with recurrent brain tumors by using indoximod-based therapy as a front-line treatment. Dr. Johnson has successfully secured partial funding from the NIH/NCI for the Phase 2 trial, but the NIH R01 grant funding only provides a portion of the total cost to deliver this experimental immunotherapy to these fragile patients. The CKc grant has provided critical gap funding to cover necessary aspects of the trial that the federal government’s grant does not cover. The trial will provide 190 brain tumor patients with an option for treatment who would otherwise be told “there are no more options.”
Santiago Estevez is an eight-year-old boy from Orlando, Florida who has been in treatment for Medulloblastoma since he was four. Unfortunately, Santiago received too much radiation to his brain; and, as a result, has been paralyzed from the neck down. He was successfully treated on Dr. Johnson’s Phase 1 and Emmi Grace Applesauce trial before his disease progressed again. The medication was administered via his g-tube, making him one of the first patients to ever receive immunotherapy via a g-tube. Santiago’s Mom says, “Our road is not over, but thanks to organizations like CKc, there is hope for families like ours across the globe.”
Dr. Holly Meany, Children’s National Medical Center – ($200,000)
Hannah Harger Relapsed Wilms Tumor Trial
Children who relapse with Wilms tumors have a dismal prognosis and there are few targeted therapies or clinical trials available. Dr. Meany’s trial aims to fill this critical need with use of a therapy similar to the celebrated CAR-T therapy, which has not had thrilling results in solid tumors like it has in blood cancers. Dr. Meany’s protocol is a “first in human” approach to evaluate the targeting of multiple tumor associated antigens with T cells and combining it with chemotherapy in a novel way. This Phase 1 clinical trial will create a treatment option for 10 children with relapsed Wilms tumor. In the future, this strategy may also be exploited to enhance the efficacy of immunotherapy in many other solid tumors that express these tumor antigens.
Hannah Harger is a 12-year-old three-time survivor of Wilms tumor from Orlando, Florida who is featured in CKc’s “This is Treatment” campaign. There were no novel therapies available to her during her multiple iterations of treatment, which has left her with a multitude of side effects from toxic chemotherapy. This grant was awarded in her honor.
Dr. Jared Rowe, Dana Farber Cancer Institute – ($100,000)
Young Investigator Grant
Pediatric kidney cancer, especially with types rarer than Wilms tumors, remain a significant cause of cancer related morbidity and mortality in children. Harnessing the immune system to treat cancer is an exciting and rapidly growing field already demonstrating improvements in curing cancer. However, these therapies are failing when applied to children because of a lack of understanding of immune responses in childhood cancers. Dr. Rowe is using advanced technologies to analyze immune cells within tumors at the level of individual cells. This characterization will provide an unparalleled view into the function of immune cell populations in childhood cancer. This research will perform the most comprehensive analysis to date of the immune response in an important group of pediatric cancers. By understanding the immune response to pediatric kidney cancers, we can begin developing pediatric-specific immune based therapies to increase the rates of cures and limit side-effects. Dr. Arlene Sharpe, Immunology Department Chair at Harvard Medical School, noted, “His thoughtful approaches to addressing scientific questions, passion for science, and strong motivation are a winning combination. I have trained many talented fellows over the past 27 years, and Jared ranks amongst the very top tier of my trainees.”
Dr. Amy Smith, Dr. Judith Simms- Cendan and Laura Wieber, Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children – ($65,000)
First Central Florida based Oncofertility Program for Childhood Cancer Patients
Infertility remains a persistent and major concern for childhood cancer survivors. Early intervention is essential to protecting reproductive health and the cornerstone of successful intervention is a nurse patient navigator to educates families on their options and make a family-centered, timely plan. CKc’s funding will help support two goals: 1) the hiring of such a navigator at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer; and, 2) the creation of a multidisciplinary service team for reproductive preservation and an ovarian tissue cryopreservation opportunity lead by our pediatric gynecology physicians for pre-pubescent females. This effort will make Orlando Health Arnold Palmer the host of the first dedicated pediatric oncofertility program in central Florida.
About Cannonball Kids’ cancer Foundation:
Cannonball Kids’ cancer Foundation’s mission is to fund innovative and accessible research for children fighting cancer to provide better treatments and quality of life, and to educate for change. Their rigorous, relationship-based, invite-only grants process ensures that 92% of CKc-funded trials are first-of-their-kind in the US. To date, CKc has awarded $2.4 million funding 24 research grants creating 593 options for treatment for children in 25 states, Washington DC, Canada, Scotland, and Switzerland.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: The “c” in cancer in the name Cannonball Kids’ cancer Foundation is intentionally lowercase to give the word “cancer” an inferior status.]