Progress is Being Made in Pediatric Cancer Research But More Funding Needed

DES MOINES, Iowa –Today families of children with cancer and members of organizations that help young patients gathered at the capitol. Governor Kim Reynolds signed a proclamation declaring September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Families say the awareness helps, but they really want that to translate into action. They’re fighting for more funding of pediatric cancer research.

Research takes place in Des Moines at Blank Children’s Hospital. Dr. Wendy Woods-Swafford, Medical Director of Blank Cancer and Blood Disorder Center at Blank Children’s Hospital said, “There’s a tremendous amount of research going on for childhood cancer in our current state, but funding for it is ever challenging.”

“If you look at all childhood cancers and group them together as one single funding unit, they’re extraordinarily rare in comparison to adult cancer, such as breast cancer and colon cancer. So, funding a rare cancer, let alone 100 subtypes of cancer in pediatric cancers, is very difficult to get national funding, industry funding, and philanthropy funding.”

Blank Children's Hospital is one of 200 hospitals, cancer centers, and universities that are part of the Children's Oncology Group. "Which is the only pediatric cooperative group that researches pediatric cancer around the world," said Dr. Woods-Swafford.

About 85% of the pediatric cancer patients at Blank participate in 60 trials, ranging from collecting tumors and blood samples to looking at what could cause pediatric cancer. Progress is being made. "We're finding new ways to utilize and harvest the power of one's own immune system. We're finding new ways to use viruses to help us enter a cancer cell and kill it," said Dr. Woods-Swafford.

"And looking at the work that's been done in the last five years, I would say the next five to ten years are going to be incredible," she added.

The improvements are not enough in a field that has plenty of heartbreak. “It will never be enough for us because if I tell a parent your child has an 80% chance of surviving this, although that sounds tremendous, I know 1 in every 5 children that I treat with that type of cancer won’t survive and that is never enough, as a physician and cancer researcher.”

You can learn more about the Children’s Oncology Group and how to donate it on its website. You can also donate to research at Blank Children’s Hospital directly by specifying research with your donation.

St. Baldrick’s Foundation and Unravel Pediatric Cancer also fund pediatric cancer research.

Dr. Woods-Swafford also said the support in the Des Moines Community is amazing and that also helps young patients and their families through treatment.

Organizations like Children’s Cancer Connection, Tori’s Angels Foundation, Angels for Sam, and Pinky Swear Foundation provide assistance in a variety of ways.