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Optimist International and Johns Hopkins Partner in Cancer Research Initiative

Providing the Care ... Finding the Cure
Optimist International has partnered with Johns Hopkins University to further efforts for finding a cure for childhood cancer. On March 24, 2004, Optimist International's 2003-2004 President, Dwaine Sievers, and Dr. Robert Arceci, director of pediatric oncology at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, signed an agreement that would create the Optimist International Research Fellowship in Pediatric Hematology and Oncology.

Optimist International met a $1 million commitment in December 2009 to establish the Endowed Research Fellowship. The fellowship will move forward research of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) in the university's Division of Pediatric Oncology.

The Facts
Thirty years ago, nearly all children with cancer passed away from their illness. Today, almost 75 percent of children diagnosed with cancer survive and lead healthy adult lives. Despite these advances, cancer remains the leading cause of death from disease in children and many who achieve remission will relapse from causes related to their cancer and its treatment.

The Challenge
The Johns Hopkins research will focus on developing a targeted therapy to fight AML, the second most common form of childhood leukemia and a type of leukemia with a high mortality rate. Unlike the more common acute lymphoblastic leukemia found in children, which has an 85 percent cure rate, AML remains a very difficult leukemia to successfully treat. There are more than 10,000 adults and more than 500 children who develop AML in the United States each year.

Although intensive combination chemotherapy is capable of inducing remission in 60 percent to 85 percent of patients with AML, long-term survival is achieved in only a minority of patients. In addition, much of the success achieved has been due to increased chemotherapy dosage and stem cell transplantation, both of which have major short- and long-term side effects. There is a great need for improved therapies that would be able to circumvent drug resistance and more specifically target leukemic cells.

The Goal
Johns Hopkins has assembled teams of investigators who are committed to the development of targeted therapy for AML and other childhood cancers. Researchers are hopeful that their efforts will not only lead to a targeted therapy for AML, but that the therapy can eventually be converted to a vaccine and utilized for other types of leukemia and resistant cancers.

The Childhood Cancer Campaign's mission statement is: "Optimist International shall be the leading force to rid the world of childhood cancer."

How to Help
To donate funds to research at Johns Hopkins, please send donations to:
Optimist International Foundation
Attn: Childhood Cancer Campaign
4494 Lindell Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Checks should be made out to OIF-CCC. Make sure to write "Johns Hopkins" on the memo line of the check or include a letter that says the funds should be directed to the Johns Hopkins research.

If you have any questions, please contact the Programs Department at (800) 500-8130, ext. 235, or via e-mail at ccc@optimist.org.