St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

St. Jude patient Drew is now finished with treatments. He's cancer-free and celebrated with a No Mo' Chemo party! Watch Drew's special milestone.

After spending half his life getting chemotherapy, 5-year-old St. Jude patient Drew is now finished with treatments. He's cancer-free and celebrated with a No Mo' Chemo party! Watch this special milestone with Drew and his family.

Drew was 2 years old when he was found to have acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of childhood cancer.

Determined to get Drew the best care, his family turned to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. St. Jude has increased our survival rates for ALL from 4% before we opened in 1962 to 94% today — the world’s best. Drew arrived in June 2013 and began three years of chemotherapy.

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. “Knowing that we would never receive a bill from St. Jude, Danny and I can talk about what to do for Drew versus how we’re going to pay for treatment,” Shawna said. “It changes your whole mindset.”

Recently, Drew, his family and St. Jude staff tearfully celebrated the successful completion of his treatment with a “No Mo Chemo” party at St. Jude. “This is what St. Jude does,” Shawna said. “They fix kids who have cancer.” 



Jun J. Yang, PhD - St. Jude
Jun J. Yang, PhD - St. Jude

Gene variations offer clues to cancer risk 

Jun J. Yang, PhD

A small change in a single gene suggests why childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has turned up in two generations of one family. Research led by St. Jude investigators identified the change and found other young ALL patients had variations in the same gene.

The ETV6 gene plays an important role in the blood system. St. Jude researchers discovered that one copy of the gene is altered in a family in which the mother and two of three children are survivors of childhood ALL.

All three childhood cancer survivors carry the alteration, which is predicted to cause the gene to malfunction. The daughter who is cancer free has the same alteration. The father does not have cancer and does not carry the alteration.

When researchers checked an additional 4,405 children with ALL they found almost 1 percent had changes in the same gene. Research is underway to understand the magnitude of the risk associated with ETV6 variations and develop recommendations for monitoring affected children and families. The family in this study has received counseling and follow-up care through the St. Jude Hereditary Cancer Predisposition Clinic.

“The results also suggest that inherited susceptibility to pediatric ALL may be more common than currently believed,” said Jun J. Yang, PhD, of St. Jude Pharmaceutical Sciences. A report on this study appeared in the journal Lancet Oncology.


Zurich employee, Brett
Zurich employee, Brett

Brett can thank his mother and a dedicated doctor for the opportunity to grow up with one of his best friends—his sister, Mikayla.

Mikayla was born with an acute respiratory virus. Several doctors said nothing could be done for the baby. But her mother persisted and found the doctor who cured Mikayla.

“She is one of my best friends, and I can’t imagine growing up without her,” Brett says.

When he learned that his employer, Zurich North America, offered the opportunity to donate to charity through a workplace-giving program, he knew he wanted to support a charity for health care or children.

“St. Jude does both, and it was a perfect fit,” he says.

Zurich is one example of how companies across the U.S. support St. Jude through employee giving and matching company gifts.

A recent addition to the St. Jude employee giving program is, a website that provides information and a virtual toolkit for companies who want to include St. Jude in their workplace giving programs. The site, which includes input from Zurich employees, offers engaging ideas for fundraising at work, including bake sales, a fun run at the office, an ugly sweater contest and an office trivia competition.

Zurich selects an executive champion and two employee champions to promote each of its core charities. Brett, 28, is an employee champion for St. Jude. In that role, he visited St. Jude where he was “blown away” by what he saw, although he had read about the hospital’s pioneering research and exceptional care.

“St. Jude goes to extreme efforts to ensure that the kids still have a childhood and that their families can remain close during that time. That was what left me so inspired,” he says. “That is what sets St. Jude apart from any other charity.”

St. Jude is the No. 1 charity supported through Zurich’s A Time For Giving campaign, says the program manager for community investment at Zurich. “The idea of helping provide sick children with innovative treatments that will give them the best chance to live a full, healthy life—in an environment where the family is supported—makes it a natural draw for many Zurich employees to support St. Jude."

Working together to help St. Jude children also builds employee relationships.

“One thing I didn’t expect when I started doing this was the feeling of connectedness with other colleagues,” Brett says. “It’s a nice benefit.”


Dr. Pui
Dr. Pui

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital investigators report that measuring leukemia cells that persist in patient bone marrow in the early weeks of treatment helps identify high-risk patients who need intensive therapy.

Measuring the concentration of leukemia cells in patient bone marrow during the first 46 days of chemotherapy should help boost survival of young leukemia patients by better matching patients with the right intensity of chemotherapy. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital investigators led the research, which appears in the March 20 edition of the journal Lancet Oncology.

The findings stem from a study of 498 children and adolescents with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) enrolled in a St. Jude-led protocol between 2000 and 2007. The clinical trial was the first to use measurement of residual leukemia cells – or minimal residual disease (MRD) – in bone marrow to help guide therapy. St. Jude pioneered MRD measurement as a tool to guide leukemia treatment.

“This analysis shows that MRD-directed therapy clearly contributed to the unprecedented high rates of long-term survival that patients in this study achieved,” said first and corresponding author Ching-Hon Pui, M.D., chair of the St.Jude Department of Oncology. Overall, 93.5 percent of patients were alive five years after their cancer was diagnosed. “MRD proved to be a powerful way to identify high-risk patients who needed more intensive therapy and helped us avoid over-treatment of low-risk patients by reducing their exposure to chemotherapy,” Pui said.

Researchers hope the findings will expand use of MRD measurements to guide leukemia treatment in children and adults.

The technique might also help identify patients who could be cured with less intensive chemotherapy, Pui said. Overall long-term survival was 97.9 percent or better for 244 patients in this study classified as low risk based on a variety of factors including their age at diagnosis and MRD of less than 1 percent on day 19 of treatment. “Given the excellent outcome, it will be important to determine if treatment can be further reduced in this subgroup of patients,” Pui said.

In countries with limited resources, Pui said the findings suggest that results of MRD on day 19 can be used to reduce treatment-related deaths by identifying patients who will likely be cured with low-intensity chemotherapy. “This study demonstrates these patients have an extremely low risk of relapse,” he said.

The study showed that measuring MRD just twice during remission induction therapy – at day 19 and day 46 – rather than multiple times during the more than two years of treatment was sufficient to guide treatment of most pediatric ALL patients. That will help save money and protect patients from the discomfort and risks associated with bone marrow aspiration for MRD testing. MRD measurements should continue, however, to guide treatment of patients with detectable MRD on day 46 of treatment. That is a level of 0.01 percent or more, which translates into one leukemia cell in 10,000 normal cells.

MRD was not a perfect predictor of relapse risk. Cancer returned in 26 of the 430 patients with undetectable MRD when treatment ended after 120 weeks. Researchers are working to develop even more sensitive methods for tracking treatment response in order to identify those at risk for having their cancer return.

Overall, researchers showed that regardless of other risk factors, including age at diagnosis or the initial white blood cell count, patients with an MRD level of 1 percent or more on day 19 of therapy were far less likely than other young leukemia patients to be alive and cancer-free 10 years later. Having detectable leukemia cells on day 46 of treatment was also associated with lower survival.

MRD levels on days 19 and 46 led to the reclassification of 50 patients from low risk to a higher risk leukemia that warranted more intensive therapy. Researchers credited the change with boosting survival.

The other authors are Deqing Pei, Sima Jeha, Cheng Cheng, John Sandlund, Raul Ribeiro, Jeffrey Rubnitz, Hiroto Inaba, Deepa Bhojwani, Tanja Gruber, Wing Leung, James R. Downing, William Evans and Mary Relling, all of St. Jude; Elaine Coustan-Smith and Dario Campana, both of the National University of Singapore; and W. Paul Bowman, of the University of North Texas Health Sciences Center, Fort Worth, Texas.

The research was funded in part by grants (CA21765, CA36401, GM92666) from the National Institutes of Health and ALSAC.

St. Jude Patient, Jamill
St. Jude Patient, Jamill

St. Jude wants to make sure that Jamill keeps a smile on his face. 

Jamill’s mom describes him as mellow and sweet. This 4-year-old loves riding his bike and going to basketball games. The first few years of his life have been difficult due to sickle cell disease, but St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been there every step of the way to ease his pain and keep him as healthy as possible.

When Jamill was born, tests revealed he suffered from sickle beta thalassemia disease, a subtype of sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that affects the hemoglobin within the red blood cells, causing the cells to become hard and form a sickle shape. The sickle shaped cells can cause pain, organ damage or stroke.

St. Jude has a deep and longstanding commitment to children with sickle cell disease. Scientists at the hospital have been researching the disease since the institution opened in 1962. With more than 750 patients in its sickle cell program, St. Jude remains one of the leaders in the crusade to spare children the suffering this chronic disease causes.

Little Jamill has experienced pain crises and high fevers associated with sickle cell disease, often needing to be hospitalized for days at a time. “As soon as I call and let St. Jude know we are on the way, they get Jamill’s room ready,” said his mom, Tanshika. “I know they are taking really good care of him.”

Jamill’s treatment at St. Jude includes daily penicillin and any additional care he might need to manage symptoms of the disease. He visits St. Jude every three months for routine checkups.

“Jamill’s pain crises have occurred less often as he gets older and continues treatment,” Tanshika explained. “I really like everyone at St. Jude. We’ve always been well taken care of thanks to the doctors and all of the staff.”



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Organization Information

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Location: Memphis, TN - USA
Website: http:/​/​​atwork
Project Leader:
Elizabeth Ashford
Memphis, TN United States
$161,079 raised of $250,000 goal
2,768 donations
$88,921 to go
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