It Takes a Village to Fund Childhood Cancer Research and Care for Families in Treatment

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- This month, parents are raising awareness about childhood cancer and how only four percent of the federal government's cancer research funding goes to study pediatric cancer. Private organizations step in to fill in the gaps, but more is needed.

Corbin Pierce is like many 11-year-olds. “I like to play my Nintendo Switch and my DS,” he said.

He deals with something most don't. “It`s kind of hard to go through. Go to the hospital, get all this medicine and stuff,” he said.

He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when he was 7 years old. “It`s kind of, it`s just kind of tedious,” he said.

Corbin has relapsed three times. Dad Greg Pierce said, “Each time it`s been kind of harder, you know. We felt like we were so close the first time.”

Corbin had two stem cell transplants and took a new medication to help him stay in remission. Mom Tonia Pierce said, “He was the first child in Des Moines to get that drug. The new medication they used on him, it was less harsh than having him go through a huge amount of chemo, which they would have had to before.”

Blank Children's Hospital belongs to a cooperative called Children's Oncology Group. “We are actively involved in research," said Medical Director Dr. Wendy Woods-Swafford.

The hospital has three certified research associates on staff to collect tumor samples. Research also includes symptom management trials and treatment trials. "Which are here`s the new drug into the market. It hasn`t been approved for children yet, and we want to be able to participate in the research to be able to get access for our patients to those drugs that they otherwise wouldn`t be able to get,” said Woods-Swafford.

She added that it takes a village to fund childhood cancer research and care for the families going through treatment. “With ongoing budget cuts with the government, the only way childhood cancer research is being funded to a point that it continues to make great strides and we can increase our overall survival rates is through our private funders," said Woods-Swafford.

St. Baldrick's Foundation has provided grant support the last five years. It allowed the hospital to hire additional research assistants, social work staff, and care coordinators. Woods-Swafford said, "At any given time, 20 percent of our families are accessing care beyond the state of Iowa, so just coordinating that research care takes a lot of work.”

The Pierce family is thankful for the progress but would like to see more funding for research. “These kids, they just have so much of their lives left," said Greg Pierce.

Corbin is done with his treatment, but he continues to have follow-ups. He hopes to stay in remission. “Cancer treatment is kind of hard, but if you believe in yourself, you can do it,” he said.

You can find more information and how to donate on the following websites:

Children’s Oncology Group

St. Baldrick’s Foundation

Blank Children’s Hospital

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