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‘A Campaign Against Childhood Cancer’ launched

Feb. 7, 2019, 10:05 AM

The launch of ‘A Campaign Against Childhood Cancer’ will help Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt make strides for more patients like Jurnee Scantling, here embracing her mother, Erika Scivally.
The launch of ‘A Campaign Against Childhood Cancer’ will help Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt make strides for more patients like Jurnee Scantling, here embracing her mother, Erika Scivally. (photo by Rascal3 Creative)

by Christina Echegaray

Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt publicly launched a $15 million childhood cancer campaign this week.

A Campaign Against Childhood Cancer: Soaring Higher, Dreaming Bigger builds on the strengths of Children’s Hospital by creating space dedicated to clinical care for pediatric and adolescent cancers and continuing to address the needs of families in our region.

Children’s Hospital is sharing patient stories and awareness about the campaign through social media, articles in various publications and events to help bring the community, businesses and families together in the fight against childhood cancer. Of the funds raised, $10 million will be used to expand and upgrade existing space for cancer treatments and $5 million will be for research, training and program support.

“Childhood cancer is a terrible thing for parents and children to go through, and treatment is hard. We want to provide them with the least toxic therapies in the best environment possible. We can always do better; we can always improve. When we conduct research, we can make a difference. Additional resources and philanthropy will allow us to get there,” said Debra Friedman, MD, director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/-Oncology and E. Bronson Ingram Professor of Pediatric Oncology.

Leading the effort are campaign chair Allison DeMarcus and co-chair Kailey Hand, both of whom are Children’s Hospital Advisory Board members and longtime supporters of the hospital and its programs. DeMarcus serves as chair of the advisory board.

“There is nothing more important than a child’s health. These donations can change the lives of many children and their families. By contributing, the community is helping build a treatment center that will allow a child to fight with all the tools that are available and needed,” said Hand. “Cancer does not discriminate. On any given day, any family could face this disease. If those horrible cards are thrown your way, you want to be somewhere where the fight is strong and the outcomes are good. This place is Vanderbilt.

“My message is, ‘Put yourself in the shoes of the parents who walk the halls of the hospital every day searching for an answer and for hope.’ To me, the question is, ‘how could anyone not help?’”

When Friedman arrived at Vanderbilt in 2008, the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology treated 94 cancer patients that year. As more families and children from Tennessee and across the region seek the expertise of Children’s Hospital oncologists, the number of new cancer patients treated has grown to more than 282 in 2018, with no signs of slowing. That figure doesn’t include hematology patients, who have non-cancerous blood disorders such as sickle cell disease or other conditions that require specialized care. While the program has grown significantly, the treatment space has not.

The addition of four floors to Children’s Hospital, made possible through community partners and friends who supported the Growing to New Heights Campaign, is making room for an expanded childhood cancer center.

The first two new floors are scheduled to open later this year, which will allow renovations to begin on the oncology inpatient and outpatient units. Child, adolescent and young adult cancer patients will see expanded spaces, including for patients receiving inpatient cancer therapy — an average daily need of 26 rooms — who also require oncology nurses with specialized training.

Currently, outpatient infusion happens in one large room, where patients are seated side by side in recliners.

A renovation of hospital and clinic space will provide private infusion rooms and dedicated, tailored space for the youngest children and for the teenagers and young adults who have very different needs.

It will allow infusion therapies that take longer than normal clinic hours to be conducted in the outpatient setting, without requiring an overnight admission.

Families and patients also will be involved in the redesign to give their input on how to best utilize space and accommodate their needs.

“Through these changes we can help bring additional comfort and reassurance to patients and their families during such a difficult time,” said DeMarcus.

“Not only will we have space for more children and teens who need our care, but we can provide families more scheduling flexibility and privacy during treatment.”

In addition to the capital investments, pediatric oncology will continue its emphasis on recruiting and researching, with plans to put even more resources toward that effort with support from the childhood cancer campaign, Friedman said.

“We have a phenomenal group of physicians and researchers, and people want to come here to do tremendous work. The funds for research will allow us to continue to recruit the best and brightest,” Friedman said.

Drawing on the strengths of Vanderbilt University Medical Center and through collaboration with Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, pediatric oncology will continue to improve personalized cancer care, with targeted life-saving therapies and improved outcomes based on the biology of each individual patient.

“We have the benefit of the collaborative environment on campus and the leverage of resources at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center,” Friedman said. “We can do even more if we have more funding, and we can move the needle on cancer research and move it faster.”

To support the campaign and advance childhood cancer care, visit

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