ARTICLE COURTESY OF FOX 2 NEWS - See the clip with our own Judy Ciapciak by clicking here!
ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI-FOX2now.com) - Research is underway in St. Louis that could change everything for kids with cancer and their families. It is a $65 million joint project between St. Jude's Childrens' Hospital in Memphis and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The effort is unprecedented and researchers believe it could lead to breakthroughs in treating pediatric cancer, especially in patients in St. Louis.
"St. Louisans should be excited, because there are not many places that this could happen," says Dr. Rick Wilson, director of the Genome Center at the Washington University School of Medicine.
"This will allow us, for each individual case of cancer, to perhaps understand what went wrong," he says. " It is a game changer."
Judy Ciapciak, the Executive Director of Friends of Kids with Cancer, a non profit group in St. Louis, went to a funeral Monday for a ten month old baby who died of cancer. When she learned of Washington University's undertaking, she could not contain her excitement.
"Its a dream come true!" she said, smiling. "It is exciting, it is huge."
On a wall outside her office in West St. Louis County hang photos of children who died from this dreadful disease. She calls it the "special friends" wall. Friends of Kids with Cancer helps hundreds of St. Louis families, giving them things like shopping trips, sports or concert tickets, gift certificates, and toys during chemotherapy.
Its always, "'Why?'" she says, of the parents she deals with daily. "Why does this happen, where does it come from?"
Wilson hopes to have an answer soon. "Were already underway with the first few samples," he says.
He is directing the largest childhood cancer research project in history. Washington University scientists sequenced the humane genetic code almost a decade ago. Now, they will sequence the genomes of cancer tissue and normal tissue donated by 600 pediatric cancer patients at St. Judes in Memphis. They expect to be able to compare a normal cell to a cancer cell and see when, where, and why the cancer began. In the long term youd like to use that knowledge to develop new drugs that act as magic bullets to kill only the tumor cells, he says.
"Eventually we can use that information to be very smart about treatment from the first day," he says. "Its almost a sure thing that these things will come out in the next two years."
"The guys at St. Louis Childrens Hospital will hear about this and ask if they can do some of this now. Well be able to say, 'Absolutely.'"
And then maybe Judy Ciapciak would never have to add another photo to her wall. Maybe Friends of Kids with Cancer would never even be needed, again.
"Go Wash U and St. Judes!" she says. "There's nothing more than we want to do than to just close down."