Corbin Pierce, an 11 year old from Des Moines, Iowa, likes to play video games and loves his mom and dad, like any other normal boy his age. But Corbin must face a terrifying specter few can contemplate: diagnosed with lymphoblastic leukemia since he was 7 years old, he has stared at death and participated in multiple experimental studies all before adolescence. Kids like Corbin need our help. Only 4% of the federal government’s cancer research funding goes to study pediatric cancer. Although private groups fill some of the gap, more is definitely needed. Des Moines, Iowa-based Blank Children’s Hospital, part of a cooperative called the Children’s Oncology Group, contributes its part in working furiously to help children like Corbin.
Des Moines, IA: 13 Whotv recently covered story of Corbin Pierce and the research institutions caring for him. Blank Children’s Hospital (part of UnityPoint) is one of the many hospitals that was known as the Iowa Health System until 2013. With three certified research associates on staff to collect tumor samples, Director Dr. Wendy Woods-Swafford has been actively monitoring Corbin’s situation.
Two Stem Cell Transplants
Corbin has had two stem cell transplants in the health system. He has had to take new medication to help stay in remission. His mom Tonia Pierce declared, “He was the first child in Des Moines to get that drug. The new medication they used on him, it was less harsh than having him go through a huge amount of chemo, which they would have had to before.”
A Village Required for Childhood Cancer
Dr. Wendy Woods-Swafford told 13WhoTV that “it takes a village to fund childhood cancer research and care for the families going through treatment.” She noted, “with ongoing budget cuts with the government, the only way childhood cancer research is being funded to a point that it continues to make great strides and we can increase our overall survival rates is through our private funds.’”
Some of those village participants include St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which offered support over the last five years. This support directly led to additional research assistants, social work staff, and care coordinators—vital hires for a cancer center. Ms. Woods-Swafford noted, “At any given time, 20% of our families are accessing care beyond the state of Iowa, so just coordinating that research takes a lot of work.” Corbin’s parents also emphasized the need for more funding. His father Greg emphasized that “these kids just have so much of their lives left.” The ability to have access to care coordination and supports services is absolutely vital. Although Corbin is now done and hopefully in remission for good, it is a gut wrenching struggle for the parents. But in some way, it makes everyone stronger—they must come together and take on the disease—difficult and scary but, in this case, survivable.
Children’s Oncology Group
Blank Children’s Hospital, the hospital undertaking care and research for Corbin and other children, belongs to a cooperative called the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). A National Cancer Institute (NCI)-supported clinical trials group, it is the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to childhood and adolescent cancer research. The COG unites more than 9,000 experts in childhood cancer at more than 200 leading children’s hospitals, universities, and cancer centers across North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe in the fight against childhood cancer.
More than 90% of the 14,000 children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer each years in the U.S. are cared for at Children’s Oncology Group member institutions. COG’s unparalleled collaborative efforts provide the information and support needed to answer important clinical questions in the fight against cancer. It conducts nearly 100 active clinical trials at any given time. These trials include front-line treatment for many types of childhood cancers, studies aimed at determining the underlying biology of these diseases, and trials involving new and emerging treatments, supportive care, and survivorship.
COG seeks to turn children’s cancer from a virtually incurable disease 50 years ago to one with a combined 5—year survival rate of 80% today. Their goal is to cure all children and adolescents with cancer.
Lead Research/Investigator (Blank Children’s Hospital)
Director Dr. Wendy Woods-Swafford
Call to Action: Interested in supporting the funding of pediatric cancer research? We recommend exploring how to support Children’s Oncology Group. Are you based in the Des Moines, IA area? Explore how to support Blank Children’s Hospital—and others in the area.