I feel compelled to start off this blog by saying, Happy New Year! This is my first entry of 2013, and I will admit that my mood over the past few weeks has been one of reflection. 2012 was a transformative year in my life for several reasons, both personal and professional, and one that I feel had the potential to change the trajectory of where research against childhood cancer is headed.
Firstly, though, I wanted to share a tiny piece of personal information, which is not something I'm always comfortable with. Sure, there are my personal fitness goals, my Grand Canyon trek to raise awareness for childhood cancer, and if you read my blog regularly, you know the story of my daughter Alexandra "Alex" Scott. However, what you might not know is that I am the proud dad to three boys as well, and my eldest son, Patrick, headed off to college in the fall of 2012. I couldn't be prouder of him as he went off to attend Harvard, and at the same time I couldn't help but think how eye-opening having a child leave the house is. It reminded me that time is fleeting and that life moves fast for all of us, but most especially for children battling cancer and for the researchers who are working day and night to save their lives. We all know it, funding is critical to finding cures, and now when the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) funding is at a relative low, promising researchers are at risk.
As a foundation, we have always been aware of the lack of funding for childhood cancer research, but in 2012, at a critical impasse, we realized it was possible for us to be a lifeline for the researchers who were so close to obtaining NIH funding. In the early months of last year, we introduced a category of grants to literally keep the work of researchers alive whose projects were in jeopardy due to the decreased funding. Called Bridge Grants (get it, bridging the gap between funding?) they are intended to keep projects on track while they reapply for NIH funding. The funding would last for only one year, at which time the researchers would reapply and ideally be funded by the NIH. Sounds like a good plan, right?
As the saying goes, the best laid plans often go awry... but in this case, instead, the Bridge Grant did exactly what was intended. We were pleased to learn late last year that one of our Bridge Grant awardees, Dr. Tom Look of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, received the R01 award from the NIH for his project. If you don't know what the R01 award is, don't worry -- the bottom line is that Dr. Look's research will go on and will receive the large scale funding necessary to move it toward better treatments and cures. Dr. Look's project examines why first-line therapy for children with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) continues to fail in approximately 25 percent of those diagnosed. These T-ALL patients with failed treatments are left with a poor prognosis, so Look will examine why.
Success is sweet, but as Alex would say, "work harder, do more." So, that's exactly what we are doing. ALSF will fund more Bridge Grants in 2013, and add a new category, Springboard Grants. Similar to Bridge, these grants are designed to jump-start new projects with high impact potential while other funding is sought.
So what does this have to do with the new year, you ask? Simply put, in the last weeks of 2012 and the beginning of this year, we all reflect on what was and what might have been, what we accomplished and what we could have done better. We know that we are pushing to make strides in the battle against childhood cancer, filling the gaps in research, and we also know, that there is so much more ahead. So, my new year's resolution is to follow the advice of my daughter Alex, and I hope you will join me:
"Work harder, do more."