While cancer research is no doubt a heavily funded endeavor, the amount of funding, research, and commercial development is heavily weighted toward the treatment of adults with cancer. The lack of viable cancer therapies for pediatric patients is the direct result of a lack of funding, a situation that even led MD Anderson and Texas Medical Centerresearchers to express public frustration over in a story from May of 2013 that BioNews Texasreported on. In response to the increased calls for more public funding of childhood and adolescent cancer research, CPRIT has just announced a major, new RFA aimed at Individual Investigator Research Awards for Cancer in Children and Adolescents — a new funding initiative that will place critically needed funding into the coffers of pediatric cancer researchers in Texas.
According to a CPRIT news release, the Individual Investigator Research Awards for Cancer in Children and Adolescents was one of eleven new RFAs from CPRIT that will enable the organization to “support applications for innovative research projects addressing questions that will advance knowledge of the causes, prevention, progression, detection, or treatment of cancer in children and adolescents.” The new RFA goes on to note that laboratory, clinical, or population-based studies are all acceptable for these grants, which can total up to $500,000 in funding per study for a period of up to five years. In the rationale section of the RFA, CPRIT details the pressing need for extending these funding opportunities to pediatric cancer researchers: “Clearly, more effective, less toxic treatments are needed for these diseases. However, few new therapies have been developed in recent years. Several reasons account for the paucity of new treatments, including the lack of interest on the part of pharmaceutical companies in developing treatments for cancers that account for only 1 percent of all cancer cases and the difficulty of collecting sufficient numbers of tumors for laboratory studies.” As a result, these new RFAs will function as catalysts for new research to eventually make its way into development and commercialization of next-generation therapies for pediatric cancer patients.
The new announcement from CPRIT comes after a steady campaign spearheaded by Annette Leslie, Executive Director of the Carson Leslie Foundation, who has worked tenaciously to encourage CPRIT and other biotech and life sciences funding organizations to make deeper commitments to furthering research into childhood cancers, paving the way to new treatment options.
Recently at a CPRIT meeting, Leslie, who also serves on CPRIT’s childhood cancer advisory council, addressed the oversight committee, commenting, “Don’t you just love the slightly over confidant swagger of being a Texan?” and then going on to exhort the organization to make pediatric cancer a research program priority, adding, “CPRIT embodies this swagger; charged with issuing $3 billion in bonds to fund groundbreaking cancer research and prevention in the great state of Texas. ”
Prior to this announcement, Leslie and her Foundation, which is named after her deceased son Carson Leslie, who lost his battle against cancer s a teenager, also managed to facilitate $3.2 million in new funding from CPRIT for pediatric cancer research, which was announced back in January. The grants awarded in January from CPRIT were given to some of the most proven cancer research institutions in Texas, including The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Baylor College of Medicine, and the Texas Tech University Health Science Center.
Ms. Leslie’s mission is a direct result of her son Carson’s last wish. She explains that, “Carson was diagnosed with brain and spine cancer when he was 14 years old. He confidently took the 20-year old chemotherapy and radiation treatments, believing until the very end that it would work. But when the cancer was unyielding, he whispered word’s I’ll never forget, ‘make sure they study those tumors in my brain, ‘cause if those tumors can help the next kid not die from cancer like I am, I’d like that.
Until a cure is developed, Ms. Leslie’s goal is to facilitate the funding of research into developing less toxic cancer treatments for children. Many of the novel cancer drugs currently used are simply too harsh and hard on the body for children to take advantage of. However, it is believed that there are opportunities to develop cancer drugs that can be just as effective for children as they are for adults, but without the side effects, which often have serious if not fatal outcomes in pediatric cancer patients. Texas researchers have already made some promising inroads into the developments of improved cancer treatment for children.BioNews Texas profiled new grants in February that will support Baylor Researchers’ Immunotherapy-based treatment for childhood cancer. Even more recently, a UTHSCSA Researcher has been at the center of developing an improved lab screening technique for new neuroblastoma therapies For children. These efforts in Texas will only be bolstered by an increase in funding from cancer grant organizations such as CPRIT.
Leslie explained to BioNews Texas that the new individual investor research awards mark a major turning point in her ongoing efforts to increase awareness, funding, and research for pediatric cancer: “For CPRIT to announce Individual Investigator Research Awards for Cancer in Children and Adolescents, a new funding initiative that will place even more critically needed funding into the coffers of pediatric cancer researchers in Texas, I have a renewed tenacity in the fact that CPRIT has not only listened, but more importantly has moved to action by directing funding towards pediatric cancer research.”
With CPRIT’s deeper commitment and partnering with The Carson Leslie Foundation, Annette Leslie also noted that she is “so proud that Texans through CPRIT have committed to championing innovative research for the smallest cancer fighters among us, our children.”