National foundations help push pediatric cancer research moves forward

BY ANNA THEODOSIS | MAY 01, 2012 6:30 AM

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Pediatric oncologists across Iowa and the nation are joining hospitals and using charity funds to further pediatric cancer research, because funding for health-care research cannot keep up with advancements.


Jane Caswell, a pediatric oncology nurse specialist at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said major childhood cancer-treatment hospitals have joined together to maximize research.

"The biggest thing that happened is that all of the major childhood cancer-treatment hospitals have united, probably about 10 years ago [they united] to form the Children's Oncology Group," she said. "It's where no institution has enough diagnosed children on their own to learn about pediatric cancer research."

Caswell said the federal dollars cannot keep pace with the many ongoing projects in pediatric research, which helps other pediatric researchers collaborate with fundraising organizations.

Renate Myles, the senior press officer at the National Institutes of Health, said the agency received $30.69 billion in funding for fiscal 2012. That money was split up among separate health research fields, with 53 percent of funds going to research projects.

When children are admitted to the UIHC to be treated for cancer, Caswell said, they receive research-trial treatment if the facility has a research program dedicated to theirform of cancer.

"We've worked together cooperatively," she said. "Here in Iowa, we conduct clinical trials all the time. They have been what has made us make up the progress throughout the years."

The UI Child Life Association aimed to aid local childhood cancer research Monday through the Alex's Lemonade Stand charity drive. The nationwide foundation was created after the death in 2004 of Alexandra Scott, an 8-year-old from Pennsylvania who suffered from cancer and wanted to use a lemonade stand to raise money for other sick children.

After spreading nationwide, the foundation raised more than $50 million toward pediatric cancer research and funded more than 200 research projects. The UI's drive Monday raised around $500.

Kizzy Marco, the vice president of the UI Child Life Association, said carrying on Alexandra's legacy is an important goal.

"The foundation is huge," the UI senior said. "If we can be a small part of carrying on her legacy, that's important to us."

Gillia Kocher, in charge of public relations for Alex's Lemonade Stand, said she thinks the foundation is moving forward with pediatric cancer research.

"I think we're going in the right direction," she said. "We're hopefully going to raise more and more money which, in turn, funds more research. It's very important to us that we fund this medical research leading to some breakthroughs."

Caswell said such local charity foundations such as Dance Marathon and Alex's Lemonade Stand have aided pediatric cancer research.

"Dance Marathon, within our own group here, has funded pediatric research here with our own fellows," she said. "[Whether it's local or national,] every dollar that's put in helps. It doesn't matter if it's a lemonade stand or dance marathon, every one of those dollars helps."

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