The Pediatric Cancer Foundation (PCF) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding research to eliminate childhood cancer. PCF was founded by two mothers who met in the waiting room of a Tampa pediatric oncology clinic in 1991. Its focus is to fund research to find less toxic, more targeted therapies by partnering with leading hospitals nationwide.
This innovative collaboration is known as the Sunshine Project and it aligns parents, patients, community members, clinical and translational researchers and physicians across the country towards fighting childhood cancer.
Each year, approximately 12,600 children are diagnosed with cancer. For a family receiving this devastating news, the initial shock is only the beginning of the long, rough road that lies ahead of them.
While significant progress has been made overall for young patients with cancer, there remain difficulties treating patients with rare cancers, high-risk cancers, and cancers with metastatic spread. Many of these patients will experience the heartbreak of exhausting all options and known therapies.
Despite many efforts at institutions, there remains significant need for new and innovative combination therapies. Wouldn’t it be great if the leaders in the fight against childhood cancer could unite behind the common goal of destroying this terrible disease?
The Pediatric Cancer Foundation recognizes this need, and is working together in partnership with Moffitt Cancer Center to eliminate childhood cancer.
The Sunshine Project, administered at Moffitt, capitalizes on the strengths of doctors and researchers to streamline the process and accelerate the development of new treatments.
This unique collaborative model optimizes the significant clinical research resources at Moffitt, which allow coordination of the 13 other sites that enroll pediatric patients. These sites include:
- All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine, St. Petersburg, Fla.
- Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Calif.
- Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Hartford, Conn.
- Holtz Children’s Hospital at the University of Miami, Miami, Fla.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, MD
- Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, Orlando, Fla.
- Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY
- Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio
- Nemours Children’s Clinic, Jacksonville, Fla.
- Nemours/Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children, Wilmington, Del.
- Primary Children’s Medical Center, Salt Lake City, Utah
- UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, Gainesville, Fla., and
- Tampa General Hospital Children’s Medical Center, Tampa, Fla.
The Pediatric Cancer Foundation funds basic science, translational research, and clinical trials. They are also funding peer-reviewed grants across its member institutions in the fall of this year.
These innovative projects consist of translatable hypotheses with plans to incorporate this work into the next generation of Sunshine Project trials.
Spearheaded by Damon Reed, M.D., director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Program and medical director of the Sarcoma Department at Moffitt, the Sunshine Project is making great strides in terms of innovation and trial accrual, continually growing in terms of patients treated. Current initiatives and Phase I clinical trials include:
- Relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia Trial (ALL): ALL is the most common cancer in children. Metformin is a medication frequently used to treat Type II diabetes. The combination of metformin and chemotherapy is a new way to target resistant leukemia cells. This trial will determine if combining metformin with chemotherapy is safe and effective at treating leukemia. (NCT01324180)
- VIT and Metformin in Relapsed or Refractory Solid Tumors Trial: Solid tumors account for 60 percent of all childhood malignancies. Unlike other childhood cancers, minimal improvement in survival has been seen in children with solid tumors over the past twenty years. These disappointing results have prompted the Pediatric Cancer Foundation to find new agents in the fight against this disease. (NCT01528046)
- Topotecan & Sorafenib in Relapsed or Refractory Solid Tumors Trial: Topotecan is a chemotherapy drug that has been used safely for over a decade in children with anti-cancer activity in leukemias, solid tumors and brain tumors. Sorafenib is from a newer class of targeted chemotherapy drugs. The activity and safety data of single use Sorafenib has shown in multiple pediatric research models to be effective in targeting cancer cells. Therefore, the combination of these two agents was tested along with numerous others in sarcoma models and found to work well together to kill cancer cells. (NCT01683149)
Pediatric Total Cancer Care Program:
- In 2013, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation opened the first pediatric blood and tissue banking program in Florida to further personalized medicine for children with cancer.
Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s Sunshine Project Research Laboratory at Moffitt Cancer Center
- In 2013, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation opened a new Sunshine Project research laboratory at Moffitt. The focus is to create a system to rapidly evaluate many FDA approved and actively evaluated agents which can then immediately be translated into Sunshine Project Phase I clinical trials. Current work focuses on osteosarcoma, Malignant Peripheral Nerve Sheath Tumor and Alveolar Soft Part Sarcoma.
The Sunshine Project prides itself on being quickly adaptable and willing to innovate. In 2013-14, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation donated more than $1 million to the Sunshine Project.
By relying on the cooperative efforts of this team of principal investigators from leading institutions, this novel approach holds great promise and has been steadily increasing in terms of numbers of institutions and active research programs supported by this effort.
An annual retreat is held in Tampa, where these researchers and doctors come together to evaluate the Sunshine Project’s progress and determine future project goals, prioritize clinical trials and fund translational research efforts.
This synergistic joint effort aims to provide an example of an improved, collaborative method for successful research. Childhood cancer occurs frequently and strikes at random, sparing no ethnic group, socioeconomic class or geographic region. And survival comes at a cost.
The Pediatric Cancer Foundation and Moffitt will continue to work together through the Sunshine Project to eliminate childhood cancer. To learn more about the Pediatric Cancer Foundation’s Sunshine Project, please visit FasterCure.org.
By Damon Reed, MD and Sarah Breseman
Damon Reed, M.D., is the medical director of the Sarcoma Department and leader of the Adolescent and Young Adult Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. Reed received his undergraduate degree at the University of Dayton and attended medical school at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. He completed his residency in Pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, Mass., and then completed his fellowship in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tenn.
Reed is board certified in pediatrics and pediatric hematology/oncology. His interests include care of the Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology patient, translational research, and developing novel therapies.