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TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation wrapped-up 2015 by awarding more than $116,000 in grants to six hospitals across the country to support cutting-edge research on the many childhood cancers.  Hospitals receiving grants included Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Inc., Hunter College, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Children’s Health Dallas and Cook Children’s in Fort Worth. 

“We are committed to funding more research for childhood cancers at some of the best research hospitals in the country,” said Joy Cruse, founder of Dallas-based TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation. “As one of the leading causes of deaths among children, childhood cancer receives very little government funding for research.  Therefore, if better treatment protocols and eventually, cures are to be found, it will take significant private and corporate support to fund the brightest researchers.”

Dr. Michael Burke, M.D., with the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Inc. was awarded $35,000 for the “Bridging Study – Investigating Clofarabine, Cyclophosphamide and Etoposide for Children and Adolescents with Acute Leukemia and Minimal Residual Disease.”  Dr. Burke’s Phase II Clinical Trial will test a therapy designed to improve outcomes of stem cell transplants by killing remaining minimal residual disease (MRD) prior to transplant in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Acute Myeloid Leukemia patients.  There are currently no protocols for bridging therapy, making this a novel concept to reduce MRD and improve outcomes and survival.

Dr. Brian Zeglis, Ph.D., with Hunter College was awarded $35,000 for “A Novel Strategy for the Pre-targeted Radioimmunotherapy of Pediatric Neuroblastoma.”  Dr. Zeglis’ preclinical trial offers a new approach to radioimmunotherapy using site-specific radiolabeling of antibodies.  His research suggests a more effective therapy, drastically reducing overall radiation exposure to young patients.

Dr. Michael Hogarty, M.D., with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was awarded $10,000 for “Targeting the Suppressive Neuroblastoma Microenvironment to Improve Anti-GD2 Directed Immunotherapy.” Dr. Hogarty’s preclinical study defines Difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) exposure assess tumor characteristics that predict response, showing how the immune system fights Neuroblastoma cells.  The Anti-GD2 therapy improves survival and increases antitumor activity.

TeamConnor also awarded a $10,000 grant to Dr. Ira Dunkel, M.D., with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for “Sequential Phase I Studies of Nivolumab Monotherapy and Nivolumab in Combination with Ipilimumab in Pediatric Patients with Relapsed or Refractory CNS Tumors.” Dr. Dunkel’s novel therapy for poor prognosis brain tumors uses two monoclonal antibodies that function as immune checkpoint inhibitors, stimulating the immune system to fight the cancer.  This is a multi-institutional study, sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, and includes participation from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“Funding research is imperative to moving closer to cures in the childhood cancer arena,” said Kathryn Copple, executive director of TeamConnor. “In addition to funding these research projects, TeamConnor was also pleased to donate $18,500 to Children’s Health in Dallas and Cook Children’s in Fort Worth to fund our Art Box Program. TeamConnor provides the funds for hospitals to create personalized boxes of materials including paints, canvases, crayons, markers, coloring books, ipads, and other fun items for kids to be creative while going through life-saving stem cell transplants in the hospital. These treatments result in extended, isolated hospital stays and the Art Box Program drastically improves the patients overall experience during their treatments.” 

TeamConnor also had the unique opportunity to work with Children’s Health of Dallas in their Pediatric Oncology Department.  TeamConnor granted $8,000 in 2015 to provide five years of funding for a two-month summer oncology internship position at Children's. Last summer, the student selected for the TeamConnor Pediatric Oncology Internship studied pediatric bone cancer under the leadership of Dr. Patrick Leavey.  Dr. Leavey is a pediatric oncologist and Associate Medical Director for Clinical Affairs at the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's, the Director of the Musculoskeletal Tumors Program at Children's Medical Center Dallas, and a professor of pediatrics at UT Southwestern.

Every year, more than 12,500 children and adolescents are diagnosed with cancer in the United States. Childhood cancer is the number one disease killer of children, yet the budget of the National Cancer Institute allocates less than four percent of its funds to pediatric cancer research. TeamConnor Childhood Cancer Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness and funding research and treatment programs to find a cure for all childhood cancers.  

TeamConnor hosts several events throughout the year to raise funds for childhood cancer research, including the III Forks Golf Classic and Auction Dinner; Splash Out Childhood Cancer; National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Concert and Prayer Vigil; Color Me Green 5K and the Northwestern Mutual Clay Shoot.  In addition, TeamConnor’s national program, Coins for Kids with Cancer raises funds in schools, churches, offices and organizations across the country to help fund childhood cancer research.

For more information on how to impact the lives of those affected by childhood cancer, please visit teamconnor.org or find us at Facebook.com/TeamConnor.

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