From pitchers and catchers to fast base runners and big hitters, baseball rosters need a diverse range of skills, but to achieve victory, individual players need to work together. Such dedication to collaboration also is a winning game plan when patients, clinicians, researchers, and donors team up to accelerate the study of childhood brain tumors.
This summer, the Children’s Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium (CBTTC) established in 2011 by The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia scored a home run when they received a grant from the Vs. Cancer Foundation. The 2-year-old nonprofit organization has inspired athletes and communities across the country to raise $1 million so far to fund childhood cancer efforts at 50 children’s hospitals.
“One of our favorite things about Vs. Cancer is that, like the CBTTC, they are interested in partnering with as many people as possible toward a common goal,” said CBTTC Neurosurgery Director Adam Resnick, PhD. “By engaging young players, they give them an amazing opportunity to be impactful as human beings. Whether they become major league stars or even go on to medical school or to do research, maybe they will pay attention to pediatric brain tumors.”
Vs. Cancer Chief Executive Officer, Founder, and brain cancer survivor Chase Jones visited CHOP’s Research Institute’s facilities with a senior-year baseball player from the University of Pennsylvania’s Quakers team to meet the investigators, post-docs, and bench scientists whose innovative work will be supported by the donation. Earlier this year, Quakers players took a few good swings with their hair clippers and shaved their heads as part of a Vs. Cancer fundraising event.
On the tour, they learned firsthand how the CBTTC reaches way beyond their “home field” laboratories. The CBTTC is a collaborative, multi-institute program committed to tissue-based research that will lead to new treatments and diagnostic tools for childhood brain tumors, which are the leading cause of disease-related death in children. It has a state-of-the-art biorepository that collects and stores brain tumor biospecimens at CHOP for genomic sequencing.
Data is shared with the whole world so that scientists can begin making hypotheses about what is causing the cancer and how they can potentially target therapies. Open access to in-depth descriptions of these tumors’ biology is vital because pediatric brain cancers are rare, as compared to adult cancers, and no one pediatric institution has a large enough biospecimen collection to analyze.
Anyone can query the data and specimens that are available, and then they can submit a scientific proposal for biospecimens that is reviewed by a scientific committee. If approved, the biospecimens are provided to the investigator with the requirement that the data generated from the project be shared back with the CBTTC in real time.
“We recognize that many scientists worldwide could potentially help to cure kids’ cancer,” Dr. Resnick said. “Vs. Cancer’s support of the CBTTC’s sequencing data empowers specimens to be used not just by the data generators, but by the cancer community. Everyone can look into the repository, analyze the associated clinical data that is integrated into it, and design projects to begin making headway to understand pediatric cancer.”
The CBTTC’s member institutions currently include Seattle Children’s, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and Meyer Children’s Hospital of Florence, Italy.