ORLANDO, Fla., July 20, 2016 – Up to thirty-six children will now receive a new chance at surviving deadly, relapsed tumors due to a $75,000 grant recently awarded by Cannonball Kids’ cancer (CKc) to Dr. Mario Otto and his team at University of Wisconsin-Madison Carbone Cancer Center for a novel immunotherapy trial involving a ground-breaking stem cell transplant component. The clinical trial is focused on children with hard to cure tumors such as rhabdomyosarcoma, neuroblastoma, and Ewing sarcoma, and certain leukemias and lymphomas , that have not been controlled by conventional cancer therapy. The grant was awarded in honor of Trevor Sheerer, an eight-year-old boy from Lake Nona, Fla., who passed away April 30, 2016, after his battle with relapsed rhabdomyosarcoma.
“This trial is a novel translational type trial, a trial that is bench-to-bedside,” explained Melissa Wiggins, CKc Co-Founder. “These are the trials CKc believes in. To us, there is nothing else. What is the point of science staying in the lab? Let’s help kids live today!”
Patients participating in this clinical trial will be treated with a stem cell transplant using cells collected from one of their parents. The cells from the parent (“graft”) will be prepared in a new way that allows helpful immune cells to be transplanted along with the stem cells. These important immune cells are very efficient at fighting infections and killing remaining cancer cells almost immediately. In addition, the cells that cause graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) and other horrific transplant-related reactions are removed, making the transplant safer and less torturous for the child to endure. The trial participants also will receive a medication that further stimulates the immune system to fight the cancer.
Dr. Mario Otto, M.D., Ph.D., is the principal investigator for this Phase I trial, which will be implemented at the highly-regarded American Family Children’s Hospital at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. The UW Carbone Cancer Center is one of only 45 National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Dr. Mario Otto’s team includes Dr. Paul Sondel, M.D., Ph.D., world-renowned for his work in the field of immunotherapy since 1969 and integral in increasing survival rates for neuroblastoma from 20 percent to 50 percent.
“We are very grateful and humbled for the support of our clinical study by CKc,” stated Dr. Otto. “They understand the lack of sufficient funding for pediatric clinical cancer trials slows us down in finding new and better, less toxic treatments for kids with cancer, and CKc has decided to tackle this terrible situation.”
The money which funded the Trevor Sheerer Grant was raised at CKc’s first-ever Gold Gala in Orlando on April 23, 2016. Less than three months later, the money is funding bench-tobedside research. CKc has funded approximately $300,000 in research trials since in it earned its 501(c)(3) non-profit status in January 2015.
“We are once again proving how serious we are about funding research by immediately funneling generous donations right back into the pediatric cancer community in order to get to a cure,” said Ashley VanDerMark, CKc Chief Executive Officer. “Money in the bank doesn’t save lives. CKc has always had a priority to put the money we raise into the hands of researchers as soon as possible to provide hope to children who may have been told previously there are no more options to help them.”
CKc recently received a fundraising efficiency rating of 96% for the last tax year, 2015, meaning $0.96 of every dollar raised went towards funding pediatric cancer research. Toprated charities must earn an 80% rating or higher.
Based in College Park, Fla., Cannonball Kids’ cancer was founded in June 2014 by Michael and Melissa Wiggins, parents of Cannon Wiggins. When Cannon was 20 months old, he was diagnosed with Stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma. During the treatment of Cannon, Michael and Melissa learned so little time, effort and funding is devoted to finding cures for children’s cancer compared to adult cancers, and as a result, children are unnecessarily and unjustly lost. CKc aims to stop the tragic reality of children suffering and dying because of the lack of research in the world of children’s cancer treatments.
[The “c” in cancer in the name Cannonball Kids’ cancer is intentionally lowercase to give the word cancer an inferior status.]