The Hackensack University Medical Center (HackensackUMC) Foundation has launched an exciting fundraising initiative, “Tackle Kids Cancer,” which is designed to raise funds for pediatric cancer research, innovative therapies and the highest level of care. The New York Giants are supporting this important initiative and the effort to defeat kids’ cancers.
The Children’s Cancer Institute at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital, HackensackUMC, recently established its Pediatric Neuro-Oncology program to focus on the clinical and research needs of children with brain and spinal cord tumors.
HackensackUMC will assume the role of lead institution in a joint phase 1 effort with Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and also participate in a multi-institutional trial based out of Johns Hopkins. Initiatives also include transplant clinical trials as well as a program focused on the long-term health – both physical and emotional – as well as social issues specific to pediatric cancer survivors.
Jon Fitzgerald, executive vice president and chief development officer at HackensackUMC Foundation, believes the timing is perfect to bring the medical center’s relationship with the Giants to a new level to have a broader impact on the community.
“We have a wonderful partnership with the Giants and their support of Tackle Kids Cancer will bring significant awareness to our efforts to continue research and develop therapies that will help not only our local community, but children with cancer everywhere,” Fitzgerald says. Robert C. Garrett, president and CEO of Hackensack University Health Network, shares Fitzgerald’s optimism for the campaign and how it will help the medical center expand the scope of its care.
“The Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital is the largest provider of pediatric cancer care in our area,” Garrett says. “Seventy to 80 percent of childhood cancers have been eradicated and we’re trying to tackle that last 20 to 30 percent. The monies raised in this campaign will help us in our quest to reach that goal.”
Garrett continues that pediatric cancer research initiatives have been severely underfunded on a national level and that these efforts will allow the Children’s Cancer Institute to make meaningful advances.
Mike Stevens, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for the New York Giants, echoes the enthusiasm for Tackle Kids Cancer.
“The Giants have always been civic minded and we are very proud to support the Children’s Cancer Institute at Hackensack University Medical Center,” Stevens says. “This is a solid relationship that has been built over time and it is wonderful to have the players and alumni involved in such a worthy cause. We are proud to be a part of it.”
In the huddle
Dr. Derek Hanson is one of the physicians leading the research and clinical trials at the Children’s Cancer Institute. A pediatric hematologist/oncologist with subspecialties neuro-oncology, leukemia and lymphoma, Hanson is spearheading clinical trials to introduce new protocols for treatment.
Of paramount importance in the clinical trials is to develop a protocol that will reduce the longterm side effects of therapies given to children as they grow into adulthood.
“We are looking to remove radiation from our therapies and still achieve an excellent cure rate,” Hanson says. “Using the patient’s own tissue and conducting the genetic research will allow us to develop treatments that will not require radiation.”
Of the 20 percent of pediatric cancers without a cure, many are brain and spinal cord tumors with high mortality rates. Funding for clinical research and new medications has been significantly limited.
“Things that are happening here will have the potential to impact everyone in the nation,” says Dr. Jeffrey Boscamp, vice president and chief academic officer of HackensackUMC and chairman and physician-in-chief of the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital. “This research will allow us to change how kids are treated for cancer and how they are cured.”
Boscamp says that the partnership with the Giants will enable the medical center to accomplish many things.
“This loads our toolbox,” Boscamp says. “The money we raise allows us to bring in more professionals, to continue our clinical trials, and to give families hope. The point of all of this is to create a vital environment for research to accelerate cures for various forms of pediatric cancer.”
The new face of cancer survival
Washington Township’s Chris Napoli was about to embark on a family vacation to California when he suddenly felt ill and decided to see the doctor. It was a very wise decision because it wasn’t the flu, as he might have expected, but a tumor sitting on top of his esophagus that might have burst had he boarded a plane and gone up in the air.
Napoli, a student athlete at The College of New Jersey, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the Children’s Cancer Institute at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and underwent a rigorous chemotherapy regimen that took him out of college but swiftly arrested the disease.
Napoli credits the staff at the medical center for not only saving his life, but for helping him get healthy and strong. He received the majority of his treatments as an outpatient and experienced the compassionate care of staff firsthand.
Today, Napoli’s cancer is in remission and he is completing an 18-month maintenance program while he has returned to college to resume his junior year.
“Seeing how the Children’s Cancer Institute helped me through my treatments, I definitely want to be part of Tackle Kids Cancer,” Napoli beams.
Like Napoli, Giants’ linebacker Mark Herzlich knows a bit about tackling kids’ cancer. As a student at Boston College in 2009, Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. He sat out the 2009 season, beat cancer, and returned in 2010 to complete his senior year at BC on the football field. Like his Giants teammates, Herzlich is excited to be a part of the Tackle Kids Cancer efforts.
“Hackensack is our hometown hospital,” Herzlich says. “It’s the first place we bring our families. When I was diagnosed with cancer, my team was behind me. I feel that it’s important for me to do what I can to help children who suffer from cancer.”
To learn more about the campaign, visit tacklekidscancer.org.