Stephanie Flood was in third grade and thought she had the flu. Aliki Stamati was six years old when the symptoms began. Diagnosed with brain tumors almost 15 years apart, both girls were treated by Stewart Goldman, MD, Head of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, with innovative therapies supported by the Children's Research Fund, now celebrating 25 years of transforming futures for children.
Founded in 1951 as a volunteer-led fundraising organization focused on medical research, the Children's Research Fund affiliated with Lurie Children's in 1990. Since that time, the group has contributed more than $69 million to advance pediatric medical research conducted by the researchers and physician-scientists of the Stanley Manne Children's Research Institute at Lurie Children's. As a principal benefactor of the Manne Research Institute, the group has supported investigations into new treatments for cystic fibrosis, cancer, neuromuscular disease and kidney disease, invested in research technologies, and helped to launch the research institute's Clinical and Translational Research program.
Interested from the first in advancing innovation, the Children's Research Fund has often chosen to support experimental programs or progressive technologies. The Intrabeam system, a technology acquired with the help of the group, successfully delivered precisely targeted doses of radiation into Stephanie's tumor. She was one of the first pediatric patients in the nation to receive the treatment.
To treat Aliki years later, Dr. Goldman, Division Head of Hematology/Oncology/Neuro-Oncology & Stem Cell Transplantation, turned to a clinical trial of a highly individualized molecular-based therapy and has seen her tumor shrink by more than 75%. This treatment is a form of Precision Medicine, a new research initiative that uses a child's unique biologic characteristics to develop the best treatment, with the least toxic effects, for that specific child. In 2016, the Children's Research Fund directed the proceeds of their December signature event, the Children's Ball, to Precision Medicine. The Ball and the group's Annual Campaign together raised more than $2.2 million.
"Stephanie and Aliki are two of the best possible examples of the impact of support for research," said Dr. Goldman. "They would not be enjoying their lives if it weren't for researchers seeking new ways to treat kids with brain tumors, and the researchers couldn't have done their work without philanthropic support from the Children's Research Fund and other donors."
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of Heroes magazine.