Stand UP

Written by Michael Wiggins

This is Michael. We are hearing a lot of good things happening in pediatric cancer awareness, and there are advancements being made by those doing the research in the world of cancer found in children. Of course we know that our own grantee, Dr. Ted Johnson, is doing great work in Augusta, Georgia in the field of brain cancer found in children and infants. We know firsthand that Dr. Giselle Sholler is an amazing person and brilliant physician and is another of our grantees. Cannon just finished Dr. Sholler’s clinical trial for the prevention of relapsed neuroblastoma with the use of a drug call DFMO. And Dr. Mario Otto and Dr. Paul Sondel, also our grantees, are doing fantastic work to try to find the cause and a cure for rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer of the bone found primarily in children. These are amazing people and their staffs are fantastic as well. We are proud to be associated with them all.

Last week in California, we heard of exciting work and clinical trials in the use of immunotherapy to try to treat recurrent or difficult tumor cancers in children. We have met young people that want to find the answers and want to eliminate cancer in children and not just treat it and build big and shiny new hospitals. CKc is excited to fund and support all “young investigators” and those dedicating their professional careers to ending the suffering of children because of cancer.

Why is our journey important? That is a question that we have been asked by the media and by others who want to know more about what we have done or what we learned by taking Cannon through his nearly two years of constant suffering in treatment. The answer is that our journey as a Foundation is important because it’s the right thing to do. It’s that simple. Both Melissa and I have always strived to lead this journey for our Foundation to “do the right thing” no matter how hard or how difficult, and improving treatments for kids with cancer and ultimately finding a cure is at the top of the list of our life priorities.

Why do I say this? Did you know that nearly all drugs currently used to treat children with cancer, with the exception of a few anti-leukemia drugs developed in the 1950s and early 1960s, were developed for adult cancers and then found “effective” to treat cancer in children? But it is true that most common types of childhood cancer are distinct from adult cancers clinically, pathologically, cytologically, and in the molecular abnormalities that underlie them. If the discovery and development of new agents for childhood cancers were to capitalize on today’s science and “modern medicine” and advancements in technology, gene mapping, etc.—which in large measure it does not—there is every reason to believe that cure rates could be improved for all pediatric cancers. (Source: National Research Council, “Making Better Drugs for Children with Cancer”, 2005)

Consider these chemotherapy drugs which were administered to Cannon during his treatment and other still today to other children with neuroblastoma:

Carboplatin - approved by the FDA 3/3/89

Cisplatin - approved by the FDA 7/16/99

Cyclophosphamide - approved by the FDA 7/3/86

Doxorubicin - approved by the FDA before 1/1/82

Etoposide - approved by the FDA 2/22/96

Vincristine - approved by the FDA 3/7/84

All approved for adult cancers. Not a single one on this list was developed or initially approved for pediatric cancer. (By the way, if you are really interested in this subject matter, Google or further research any of these drugs individually and check out the toxicity levels of each. It literally has brought me to tears knowing I have had to ok the administration of each to Cannon, several times over to try to save his life, because “it's part of the protocol”, which means that nothing else is available.)

The “youngest” or most recently approved one? 17 years old. Really? My son had to have drugs that were developed for adults and cause a lifetime of problems or his premature death and are between 17 and 35 years old when we live in an age when a new iPhone comes out every other year? Outrageous. Can this really be? Answer: It is. And today, several hundred kids with neuroblastoma alone will receive one or more of these chemo drugs. Maddening.

Please help all of us at Cannonball Kids’ cancer Foundation and all the families of children with cancer fight this fight. Help us raise awareness and honor all the families of those children already lost to children's cancer. Awareness is the only way to start and continue the engine to improve funding for research to develop new therapies and to find a cure to end cancer in children. It can be done. It can… believe it and stand up for children… stand UP.

Funding = Research = Cure