Finding a cure for childhood cancer

Published 7:32 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2014

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CURE hands are the hands of Team Thomasville youth who recently washed cars to raise funds to benefit CURE.

Gold ribbons and lawn signs are springing up around Bainbridge to focus attention on September as being the month to concentrate on curing childhood cancer.

Tee Bridges, Chairman of the board and CFO of Stone’s Stores, serves on the board of directors of CURE, a statewide organization whose goal is to expand research dollars to help cure childhood cancer.

Bridges, himself a survivor of cancer, takes the challenge seriously. In 1981, at the age of 15, Tee was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent treatment at Emory Pediatric Hospital, now called Egleston Children’s Hospital in Atlanta.

His mother, Laura Bridges recalls that he was a participant in an experimental treatment program. She believes his successful recovery was partly due to luck and being in that experimental trial group whose participants did better than other groups.

CURE was founded in 1975 with the mission of providing research on children’s cancers and providing services to patients and families.

Bridges said it came about as research made advances in treatment of leukemia, they needed a special microscope to identify the different types. A leading physician of the pediatric group went to Emory hospital and requested $10,000 to purchase the special microscope. Emory denied the request, so he made an appeal to a group of the parents of ailing children who raised the money. In addition, one of the fathers, an employee of IBM also contributed a much-needed computer. From these humble beginnings, the CURE organization was formed, made up of family members.

Laura Bridges recalls her first contact with CURE came the first day Tee went to the clinic for treatment.

“There was a parent volunteer there to greet and orient me,” she said.  They provide tote bags filled with information on services available to help families through treatment. Some of these include counseling and help with expenses while the families are traveling to or staying nearby treatment clinics.

According to information provided by Bridges, advances in technology, research and treatment have increased the survival rate of children with cancer from 50 percent to 80 percent over the last 50 years. CURE’s stated goal is to fund research in an effort to wipe out the last 20 percent.  In fiscal year 2013-2014, CURE funded more than $2.5 million in pediatric cancer initiatives. These dollars were distributed to 16 different research projects at the AFLAC Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta, the Winship Institute of Emory University, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, St. Jude Research Center and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Bridges said the majority of money for research in childhood cancers has come from the National Cancer Institute, funded by the federal government. However, over the past 10 years NCI funds allocated for childhood cancer research have dropped 30 percent, using inflation adjusted dollars; while over the same period, investment in adult cancer research has increased. This year, Bridges said, the NCI cut $6.9 million from the budget for clinical trial research in childhood cancers, restricting the participation of as many as 800 kids in nationwide trials.

Each year over 350 Georgia children are diagnosed with cancer. Finding cures for these children must rely on philanthropic organizations such as CURE to provide the funds for research.

Several of these 350 Georgia children are from Decatur and Thomas counties. Thomas County has a CURE group called Team Thomasville that has been working on fundraisers for several years. Through the efforts of Stone’s Stores, Decatur County is coordinating with the Thomasville organization to reach out and spread awareness to other adjoining counties.

To support this cause you may purchase a gold bow or yard sign at any Stone’s Home Center during the month of September. You may also make a donation online at www.curechildhoodcancer.org. where you can view the stories of Georgia’s kids who grow up with cancer.