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Rotary Happenings: Rotary learns about St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

By Staff | Aug 30, 2017

As a young girl, I can remember watching the TV show “Make Room for Daddy” and later “The Danny Thomas Show” starring Danny Thomas. It was the number one situational comedy about family life during the 1950s and 60s and most everyone could relate to the circumstances portrayed on the show. He loved what he did as an actor and comedian, but didn’t want to be a starving actor. He wanted to be a success for himself and his family. At some point in his early show business career, he made a vow to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes. If he found success, he would open a shrine dedicated to St. Jude. Success came and wealth followed. Danny fulfilled his vow. That shrine was not to be some statue laden place, but a fulfillment of a larger dream to help children with cancer and other pediatric catastrophic diseases through treatment and research the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. No child would be denied treatment based on race, religion, or a family’s ability to pay.

I definitely remember that at the end of some of his shows Danny would talk directly to the audience about his new endeavor to build this hospital and ask for people to join him in supporting the mission of serving children with cancer and their families through financial support, so that treatments could be administered and research for medicines and medical protocols could be developed.

Last Friday morning, Sanibel-Captiva Rotary welcomed Ingrid McGraw, senior philanthropic advisor, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, to speak to us about updated news regarding patient care at the hospital and ongoing research in pediatric cancer programming development.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is ranked as the No. 1 pediatric cancer hospital on U.S. News & World Report’s 28th annual “Best Hospitals” list 2017-18. The publication compared nearly 5,000 medical centers nationwide in 25 specialties, procedures and conditions.

About 7,500 patients are helped at St. Jude annually from all 50 states and from around the world most are treated as out-patients and participate in research studies. The hospital itself has 78 patient beds where full out treatment occurs. Their goal is 100 percent survival for the children treated at St. Jude. In 1962 the survival number was 29 percent, today the survival rate is 80 percent. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.

Along with ground-breaking treatment procedures used at St. Jude, researchers are studying the predisposition programming of genomics. “The Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, the world’s most ambitious effort to discover the origins of childhood cancer, teamed St. Jude with Washington University in St. Louis. Researchers compared the complete genomes from both cancerous and normal cells in more than 800 patients. The project identified unexpected genetic changes in many of the most clinically challenging pediatric tumors, such as high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors.” St. Jude magazine.

One hundred clinical trials are being conducted by St. Jude researchers, computation and data on patient studies are analyzed and recorded, and precision medicine based on DNA studies is being developed. A St. Jude Biorepository contains more than 500,000 specimens donated over more than 40 years by nearly 21,000 patients enrolled in St. Jude clinical trials. About 5,000 specimens are donated each month creating the basis for research and development of treatment preparation.

Patient and family care is foremost at St. Jude, but research will provide the future for understanding the cause of pediatric cancer and prevention outcomes.

Ingrid told us that, “the majority of St. Jude funding comes from national fundraising and awareness activities, grant dollars from the National Institute of Health and National Cancer Institute.” The average individual donations received by St. Jude is $55.

Research at St. Jude is shared with pediatric cancer centers around the world and this small hospital in Memphis has taken the lead in research for prevention in pediatric cancer with their Genome project studies. Your donation dollars can change the lives of many children and their families by contributing to the health and well-being of these young cancer patients.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets on Friday mornings at 7 a.m. for breakfast at the Dunes Golf and Tennis Club. Guests are welcomed.