If you’ve followed The ChadTough Foundation for any length of time, you’ve probably heard that just 4-percent of NIH funding is designated to all childhood cancers. It’s a harsh reality, especially for those who have been personally affected.
As ChadTough and other foundations fight to change that, they are also working to raise their own funds for research from supporters like you. Whether you’ve contributed or not, you’ve probably wondered to yourself, In the grand scheme of things, what will my $20 matter when it comes to curing cancer?
That is a viable question, but one that I have a response.
I had the privilege of speaking with two esteemed researchers at the University of Michigan, Drs. Maria Castro and Pedro Lowenstein. Drs. Castro and Lowenstein are engaging in research that could positively impact DIPG treatment.
Dr. Castro is perfecting a model for immunotherapy treatments, or a way to train the immune system to attack DIPG. Dr. Lowenstein is working to generate cell lines from the tumor the Carr family selflessly donated after Chad passed away last November.
Both processes are cumbersome, but promising. Both processes are happening as a result of donations like yours.
How Funding Works
To understand the power of small foundations like ChadTough, one must understand how funding works. Scientists apply for grant money from the NIH, but only after they have data to prove their theory.
For example, Dr. Lowenstein could apply for grant money to do testing on cell lines from Chad’s tumor, but if he doesn’t have the cell lines yet, he won’t receive the funding.
“That’s why the foundations are so important,” he told me. “It’s very difficult doing the first step because you essentially have nothing.”
It’s the early funding from foundations that allow scientists like Dr. Lowenstein to do the preliminary testing necessary to receive grant money from the NIH.
“You can do much more with the foundations,” he said.
How Awareness Works
Awareness is the other factor. The reason DIPG-related research began at the University of Michigan is because of a small foundation, Leah’s Happy Hearts. Leah had DIPG and was treated by Dr. Karin Muraszko.
“It all started because Leah was Dr. Muraszko’s patient,” said Dr. Castro. “She treated her, so then they wanted to do something for DIPG in our department. That’s why I said, ‘Okay, there’s a need. We have to start working on this disease.’”
Shortly after there work began, Chad was diagnosed in September of 2014. The Carr family went on to have a significant impact on DIPG research in and around the University of Michigan, helping to fund the research Drs. Castro and Lowenstein are doing.
You are a part of that process.
Diversifying Funds and Research
A powerful message to come out of my meeting with Drs. Castro and Lowenstein is that small is good when it comes to science. To illustrate this concept, think about a science problem versus an engineering problem.
Engineering is in the math family – it is quantifiable. If I am tasked with building a bridge, I may not know how to do it myself, but I can easily find someone who does and get the job done.
Science is in the creative thinking family. If I have to find a cure for a disease, I can’t simply find a disease-curing expert. I have to think creatively, try to come up with a solution, and test it. My creative ideas will be very specific to me.
What’s more, my creative idea may not work. That’s why others testing their own creative ideas at the same time is greatly beneficial. The more individuals testing their own theories, the more likely we are to find a solution that works.
Creative ideas can easily be funded by small foundations. It’s essentially proof of concept. Then, when a creative idea has merit, the researcher can apply for a larger grant from the NIH.
Keep Believing in ChadTough
Jason and Tammi Carr have researchers, doctors, and other medical professionals they believe in and support. By donating to The ChadTough Foundation, you are helping them further progress in finding a cure for DIPG.
Not only will you enjoy giving to a worthwhile cause, you can win amazing prizes to boast about a raise even more awareness for DIPG research!
Register for the event at chadtough.org/run – you can run locally or virtually, or simply fundraise! You are incredible for all you are doing to further Chad’s legacy and support the Carr family!