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Making remarkable strides in treating kids with cancer, as research progresses

For 30 years, I have been helping children who have cancer. Every child and every family has a different story, but each one is a story of hope and courage. And each one begins the same way — with the words no parents ever want to hear … “your child has cancer.” They’re scared and they feel powerless. That is the reality for families we meet every day.

Over the past 30 years we’ve made remarkable strides in treating kids with cancer, now with successful outcomes for 80 percent of the kids we see. But that means 20 percent of cancers are still very difficult to treat. And our treatments are still associated with a tremendous amount of acute and long-term side effects, even for the children who do successfully beat the cancer. With 13,400 children diagnosed with cancer each year, that’s just unacceptable!

The impact of research on pediatric cancer care

It’s research that has brought us to an 80 percent success rate, and research that will bring us the rest of the way to treating the most difficult cancers. This is not insurmountable!

We are recognizing remarkable possibilities, for example, as we further study genetics. As we understand how an individual child’s genetic makeup affects how he or she responds to specific therapies, we can better target medications to effectively treat the disease without destroying healthy cells.

Why corporate and individual philanthropic support is vital

This need for further research is why corporate and individual philanthropic support is so vital to our work with kids every day. Here at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the vast majority of the children we treat are enrolled in at least one clinical trial. We are taking what we learn in the lab and applying it to our care and, likewise, taking what we learn from our patients to inform our research.

As federal research dollars continue to decrease, it’s other funding sources that make our work possible. We are incredibly grateful for partners such as the MACC Fund and Northwestern Mutual, as well as the gifts and fundraising efforts of so many more who have made such a tremendous impact on our program.

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. On behalf of all the families we serve, I am thankful for the vital support we receive and am hopeful we can continue to spread the word, providing greater hope for cures as well as improved quality of life for our patients and their families.