While a blood stem cell transplant can offer a promising cure for patients battling a life-threatening blood cancer, many patients experience severe side-effects like graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). GVHD occurs when the cells from the donor see the recipient’s cells as different and attack them. It can range from mild to severe. Other side effects from transplant may include infection or relapse. This is why Be The Match® is committed to seeing a 25% increase in complication-free survival in the next five years. And, with a $350K grant from Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation (JGCF), Be The Match is working even harder to improve outcomes for pediatric patients by supporting a clinical trial focused on developing an innovative therapy to prevent or reduce the severity of chronic GVHD.
Early in his career, Jeff Gordon visited a number of children’s hospitals; it was his first exposure to children and families in that setting. That’s when he realized as a racecar driver, he had the power to change the outlook of a child confined to a hospital room—he could plant a seed to inspire others.
After his crew chief’s infant son was diagnosed with leukemia, Gordon sought opportunities to raise awareness about the disease. For nearly 20 years, JGCF and Be The Match have proudly partnered to support pediatric patients.
“For Jeff, it’s never been about him, it’s always been about the kids,” says JGCF board member and former Be The Match chief executive officer, Jeffrey Chell, MD. “He sees the partnership with Be The Match as a way to help kids through the most difficult times in their lives.”
JGCF supports early career researchers who are paving the way to improve outcomes. “Jeff is always looking for high-impact clinical trials,” says Dr. Chell. “He’s seen the toxicity of cancer treatments so he has a more prioritized focus on accelerating the progress of improved treatment plans.” That’s why there was no hesitation to fund the “16-NTCD” trial, focused specifically on reducing GVHD in pediatric patients.
Gordon thinks of the grant as providing seed money to support trials to get to the next level. “Be The Match’s pediatric GVHD research study will minimize the negative effects and long-term complications of treatment,” Dr. Chell says. “Survival is important, but reducing complications allows kids to thrive.”
JGCF Executive Director, Susan Johnston, sums it up, “We want better outcomes for kids fighting cancer,” she says. “Whether that’s a cure with fewer complications or less time in the hospital, we want to give kids more time to be kids.”
To learn more about research initiatives at Be The Match, contact Amy Conner at firstname.lastname@example.org.