$100,000 Funds Two Research Projects at Seattle Children’s Hospital

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Researchers at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute have made monumental progress in the treatment of childhood blood cancers with their groundbreaking CAR T-cell therapy. This is a method of removing a person’s T-cells (a type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system), and re-engineering them to recognize cancer cells so they can be destroyed. While the future looks bright for CAR T-cell therapy against some cancers, more energy is needed to deliver the same impact for solid tumors. The Sam Day Foundation is helping researchers push forward with this therapy specifically for childhood sarcomas and brain/spinal cord tumors. Kids with these cancers should be able to survive and live well too. 

Watch this video about CAR T-cell therapy produced by Seattle Children’s Hospital

Project #1 

CAR T-cell therapy, originally designed for childhood leukemias, has had the kind of impact every compassionate researcher dreams about. It has saved the lives of children who would not have survived otherwise, because their cancer was resistant to traditional chemotherapy. Unlike leukemia, solid tumors present some challenges, and we’re still anxiously waiting for that life-changing breakthrough. Cancer Cell Biologist Dr. Beth Lawlor, and Cancer Immunologist Dr. Rimas Orentas, have teamed up with heavy doses of enthusiasm, curiosity, and drive for tackling the obstacles that prevent CAR T-cell therapy from working with Ewing Sarcoma and Rhabdomyosarcoma specifically. These cancers have a way of mutating and diversifying, which makes them resistant to multiple therapies and susceptible to metastases. This is a big problem; an agonizing, maddening problem. But now, because of funding from the Sam Day Foundation, these researchers can dedicate their best brain power toward overcoming the problem of CAR T-cell therapy resistance. Ultimately, this work could generate some of those life-changing stories that fuel our hope. 

**Our $50,000 gift was matched by a private family foundation for much needed funding to get this study off the ground. 

Project #2

Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a fatal disease with almost no survivors 2 years after their diagnosis. It’s a monster. It’s tough to treat, tough to research, and devastating to witness. This is exactly the kind of cancer the Sam Day Foundation wants to tackle on behalf of the kids and families it touches. Dr. Nick Vitanza and his team have taken on the task of advancing and implementing clinical trials using CAR T-cell therapy in children and young adults with DIPG. A $50,000 contribution from the Sam Day Foundation will support a clinical trial called BrainChild-04, which will be the first trial for brain tumors utilizing T-cells engineered to target two cancer surface markers at a time. It’s kind of a big deal. Dr. Vitanza’s innovative approach will deliver these tumor-fighting CAR T-cells directly to the brain. This is hopeful work! Even the most outstanding childhood cancer researchers need funding and support from organizations like SDF. We are excited to get behind this research and move forward with hope. 

**If you know of a child in need of a new treatment option for a brain tumor, please be sure they check for eligibility in one of the BrainChild clinical trials at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Email lorna@samdayfoundation.org for guidance on how to search for and enroll in clinical trials.