Kosair Charities gives $12 million for pediatric cancer drug development
Hearing your child has cancer is one of the worst experiences parents may ever face.
But even more terrifying is hearing from your child’s doctors that they have run out of treatment options.
Sadly, more than 10,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year; 25 percent will die within a decade of diagnosis.
“While cancer treatment has improved at near-lightning speed for adults, the medical field is years behind when it comes to children,” says Donald Miller, M.D., Ph.D., director of the James Graham Brown Cancer Center at UofL.
The majority of cancer drugs used to treat children were developed for and tested on adults. A 2005 study by the Institute of Medicine found a “near absence” of research into pediatric cancer drugs, and about half of the drugs currently in use were developed more than 20 years ago.
In fact, between 1948 and 2003 the FDA approved 120 new cancer therapies. Of those, only 30 have been shown to be effective in children and just half of those acquired any FDA labeling for use against childhood cancer over the same 55-year period.
Researchers at the Brown Cancer Center are working to change this situation with funding from Kosair Charities, the region’s largest children’s health charity.
As part of the Brown Cancer Center’s Finding Answers to Cancer campaign, last August Kosair announced that it would give $12 million to the Brown Cancer Center to further the charity’s bold vision to create an academic pediatric cancer research center.
Researchers at the Kosair Charities Pediatric Cancer Center at the Brown Cancer Center will focus on developing new therapies and drugs to address children’s cancers, with the goal of becoming an international leader in the field.
“Children have no better friend than Kosair Charities,” says UofL President James Ramsey, Ph.D., “It’s clear that we need to transform the way that new drugs are developed for kids with cancer, and we are going to do it right here in Louisville, Kentucky.”
This targeted drug development – and the assistance of Kosair Charities – is very important because this kind of work is being done in very few places, says Salvatore Bertolone, M.D., chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at UofL.
“Drug companies are reluctant to develop new therapies for use in children for two reasons,” he says.
“First, because of market forces. The number of children with a particular form of cancer is relatively small and drugs are expensive to develop. Second, the drug companies have a natural reluctance to develop drugs target for children because of safety concerns.”
Bertolone, who works daily with kids with cancer, is eager to collaborate with the new center.
“The ability to work with the breadth of researchers at the Brown Cancer Center and bring a pediatric focus to the work is fabulous,” he says.
Miller and his colleagues are assembling a scientific advisory board that will guide the center and will begin recruiting promising researchers this summer.
Both Miller and Bertolone say that it is difficult to express the depth of their excitement and gratitude to Kosair Charities for supporting their research vision.
“It’s phenomenal,” says Bertolone. “It really sets the stage and says we care about children.”
“Every single one of those $12 million dollars will make a difference for future of kids with cancer, and every dollar is appreciated,” Miller adds.