On April 24th 2013 we were delighted to present CHOP with a check for $24,000. This represented the funds raised by the 2013 Tsunami Karate Kick-a-Thon, the sale of "Christopher's Miracle Marigolds" and donations from the SAFR Spring Dinner event. The money will be used to support the Childhood Brain Tumor Tissue Consortium. Kyra Sathra also delivered cards for the children on the wards that were made by children attending the Kick-a-Thon and by the students of one of the members of the dojo.
In this picture are, from left to right, Kyra Sathra, Betsy Sathra, Tim Court, Caroline Court, Dr. Peter Phillips, Dr. Adam Resnick.
Doctors Phillips and Resnick provided an update on the progress of the CBTTC and of the brain tumor research being undertaken at CHOP.
In adult brain tumors, over 100 different genetic mutations have been identified, however, in childhood brain tumors they have only seen five. This is good news because investigating the causes of five mutations is a more manageable task than investigating over one hundred. The doctors believe the reasons that there are fewer mutations in childhood tumors are that the brain is still developing and children have not yet had time to be affected by other cancer causing agents such as smoking.
Dr. Resnick explained that their research into tumors categorized as Astrocytomas has revealed that mutation is related to the way DNA coils and uncoils within cells. DNA uncoils certain sections to "express" particular genes that affect the behavior of the cell. In mutated cells they can see that the uncoiling either doesn't happen or happens in the wrong part of the DNA strand which results in expressing the wrong gene.
Dr. Phillips explained the work being done at a higher level to make it easy for other hospitals to submit tumor samples to the CBTTC. This includes information on how to harvest and prepare the samples in order to keep them as viable as possible. They are also continuing to work on software that will record the clinical data associated with each sample. This will ensure that the same information is recorded for each sample no matter which institution it comes from.
The Foundation members were taken on a tour of the CBTTC and the research labs. The CBTTC is housed in a large room in the basement of the Colket Translation Research building.
The room contains large freezers that maintain tumor samples at -80C (-112F). These samples are able to be grown either in a dish or by implanting the cells into mice.
Other samples are stored in Liquid Nitrogen at a temperature around -200C (-328F).
Prepared tumor samples for examination under a microscope are stored in a large refrigerated room which will ultimately be capable of storing two million samples. Each sample is bar-coded and can be retrieved quickly by the robot shown in this picture.
The CBTTC has a battery backup system and diesel generators to power the freezers in case of a power failure.
Another key part of the CBTTC is the genetic mapping of the tumors. Gene mapping used to take years and many millions of dollars. Today, it can be done in hours for a few thousand dollars. CHOP is collaborating with a company that specializes in gene mapping. This company has a lab at CHOP with several gene mapping machines like the ones in this picture.
The gene mapping is producing many terabytes of data (a terabyte is 1,000,000,000,000 bytes) and one of the challenges is to find ways to efficiently make this vast amount of data available to those that want it. To this end they are investigating cloud computing solutions.
Doctor Resnick explained how philanthropic funding by groups such as ours is changing the way research is done. With philanthropic donations, the donors insist on openness and collaboration. With government funding, institutions are forced to compete against one another.
As you can see, your donations are helping to produce tangible results. The enthusiasm and excitement of the team is infectious and it really feels that this work is going to play a key role in finding a cure for childhood brain tumors.