Since TeamConnor's inception in December 2008, we have awarded almost $6 Million in pediatric cancer research grants, clinical trials and in-patient program funding. TeamConnor funded research projects in various areas of childhood cancer. Additionally, TeamConnor has supported Cook Children's and Children's Health Dallas through our KIDZBINZ Activity Box program. TeamConnor remains one of the leading childhood cancer organizations in North Texas because of our remarkable supporters who share our vision of a cancer-free world.
1. TeamConnor KidzBinz Program: The TeamConnor KidzBinz Program at Children's Health Dallas and Cook Children's in Ft. Worth supports patients in the Stem Cell Transplant Units. These children have severely compromised immune systems, and they are often kept in the isolation unit for 30 - 75 days at a time. This means limited to no contact with family members and no in-person contact with friends.
2. Overview - Dr. Anish Ray of Cook Children's in Fort Worth will be overseeing the Precision Medicine Clinic for pediatric oncology patients that TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation will be funding. Survival for children with cancer has dramatically improved during the last 50 years, but the outcome for those patients with relapsed disease remains dismal. Among survivors, the effects of treatment impacting multiple organs have negatively affected patients' quality of life post-treatment. The search for a therapy that targets tumors while sparing healthy organs led to the advancement of Precision Medicine, an emerging approach to preventing and treating diseases. This approach takes into account an individual's genes, environment, and lifestyle. Cook Children's has embraced Precision Medicine for our oncology patients, working to bring them targeted therapies that reduce the harmful effects of treatment. With grant funding, we will expand Precision Medicine to all our new or relapsed oncology patients. The Precision Medicine Initiative announced by the government in 2015 catalyzed clinicians to embrace Precision Medicine. Yet, these practices have been slow to evolve in pediatric cancer compared to adults, for example, because pediatric patients have lower rates of mutation compared to adults. In addition, refractory pediatric tumors generally have higher mutation rates than adults. Together, these findings led to the belief that pediatric tumors lack molecular complexity and that there are few mutated targetable genes in childhood cancer, limiting the use of targeted agents. In contrast to adults, where lifestyle and other exogenous factors often serve as drivers, in children, solid tumors are often embryonal in nature or sarcomas, where tumorigenesis and cell of origin are not well-understood. Thus, drugs developed using Precision Medicine for adults cannot universally be applied in pediatrics, and we recognize the uneasiness of clinicians in adopting molecularly targeted drugs that have not been studied in pediatrics. This, along with lack of training on molecular medicine and lack of data in combining chemotherapy with novel agents has hindered pediatric Precision Medicine. To overcome these hurdles, Cook Children's formed a multidisciplinary molecular tumor board three years ago. We have identified major lapses in access to next generation sequencing (NGS) testing, interpretation, and application of recommendations to pediatric clinical practice. We have also identified a complete lack of the next pillar of Precision Medicine in pediatrics - circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) and liquid biopsy. The latter has gained major traction in adult oncology but is yet to be embraced in pediatrics but remains invaluable in detecting, characterizing, and monitoring cancer. Likewise, identifying patients who may be more susceptible to a medication's toxicities can be accomplished through genomic testing. Populations most likely to benefit from this proactive approach are the underserved ethnicities often underrepresented in clinical trials but who historically make up a greater percentage of those with polymorphisms. Primary objective is to ensure survivors of childhood cancer often suffer from devastating, long-term adverse effects. Through this project, we plan to minimize short and long-term toxicity from exposure to conventional chemotherapeutic agents while targeting the improvement of event-free and overall survival through the identification of tumor-specific alterations.
3. Overview Children's/ UT Southwestern - Dr. Patrick Leavey - Osteosarcoma is a type of bone cancer that affects 400 children under the age of 18-years of age per year in the United States. Unfortunately, many patients either at the time of their initial presentation, or when their cancer comes back have evidence that the cancer has spread (metastasized) in their lungs. When this happens the long-term survival for such patients is poor, but survival is improved if the metastasis is removed surgically.