St. Jude's Research
St. Jude sets itself apart from other pediatric cancer research hospitals by the large amount of pioneering research that it conducts. For the fiscal year ended June 30, 2008 alone, St. Jude spent approximately $236.5 million researching better treatment plans for the many illnesses it treats and cures for cancers and diseases with low survival rates. This devotion to research has allowed St. Jude to become a world leader in the treatment of children with catastrophic diseases. It has received many prestigious awards for its research and treatment, such as being named the nation’s top pediatric cancer care hospital by Parents magazine in 2009 and by U.S. News & World Report in 2010. Also, the American Association for Cancer Research awarded the AACR Team Science Award to the St. Jude scientists who conducted research regarding acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common type of pediatric cancer. However, St. Jude shares its discoveries with doctors and scientists from around the world.
St. Jude conducts a vast amount of research to improve the treatment programs that it administers to its patients. For instance, St. Jude conducted a recent research project involving the treatment of brain tumors. Scientists suspect that cancers result from cancer stem cells (CSCs), and CSCs are believed to abide in vascular niches, which are recesses that brain tumors form in the brain wall. St. Jude scientists performed several experiments regarding this matter and realized that the results seemed to suggest that CSCs live in vascular niches. Also, the experiments revealed that vascular niches appear to assist in the generation of CSCs and the growth of brain tumors. Therefore, the St. Jude scientists proposed that future therapeutic approaches for treating brain tumors should target these vascular niches.
St. Jude also conducted a research project concerning the therapy for children with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). St. Jude scientists evaluated the results of long-term clinical trials to determine ways to improve the treatment programs that the hospital administered to children with AML. After examining the results from several clinical trials, the scientists realized that the treatment’s outcome was not improved by either increasing the intensity of chemotherapy or adding extra chemotherapy cycles after the cancer went into remission. Thus, the scientists concluded that St. Jude should create specific therapies that satisfy the individual needs of each patient instead of the “one size fits all” therapy that the hospital administered to all of its patients with AML.
In addition to the research that St. Jude conducts concerning the results of therapies on current patients, it also conducts research involving childhood cancer survivors and the effects that the treatments had on their bodies. St. Jude uses this information to improve their treatment programs so that future patients will experience minimal negative effects from their therapies. One such research project examined the increased health risks of childhood cancer survivors who developed the chronic hepatitis C (HCV) infection from blood transfusions. The results of the experiment showed that childhood cancer survivors who had transfusion-acquired HCV were at risk for several adverse liver outcomes. This finding contradicted the previous assumption that children were at a lower risk of adverse liver outcomes if they contracted the HCV infection at a younger age. Due to this research, St. Jude now does a better job treating the adverse liver outcomes associated with children who have transfusion-acquired HCV.
These research projects and many others show the active role that St. Jude takes in finding better ways to treat children with cancers and other deadly diseases. From the time it opened in 1962, St. Jude has drastically improved the survival rates of children with various catastrophic illnesses. Now, St. Jude regularly cures many cancers which were rarely cured in 1962. For instance, acute lymphoblastic leukemia now has a 94% survival rate compared to a survival rate of only 4% in 1962, and non-hodgkin lymphoma currently has a survival rate of 85% compared to a survival rate of 7% in 1962.