Opening Doors to New Discoveries

The parent of a former patient explains why he supports the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project.

A perspective by Allan McArtor

Opening Doors to New Discoveries

My wife, Grace, and I first walked through the doors of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 1974, when our 2-year-old daughter, Kelley, needed treatment for a brain tumor.

For a parent with a sick child, walking through those doors hasn’t changed. Families today still receive a warm reception from top-quality people—clinicians, researchers, administrators and volunteers—who are absolutely committed to the hospital’s mission. It’s still all about hope.

But what’s behind those doors has changed immensely in the past 38 years.

It’s staggering to consider the sophistication of what goes on at St. Jude today. One of those aspects is the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project.

In spite of scientific advances, we still have a poor understanding of the origins of childhood cancer. The Pediatric Cancer Genome Project takes the incredible computing power and knowledge base of genome science and applies it specifically to pediatric cancer.

This is breakthrough stuff. When I heard about it, I knew that I wanted to be a part of it.

As the parents of a St. Jude patient, my wife and I were impressed with the level of care and compassion our daughter received at the hospital. We were also impressed with the research that goes on there. Kelley lost her battle when she was 8 years old, but tissue from her tumor is still preserved in the hospital’s tissue bank. St. Jude scientists had the foresight to keep those samples, hoping that they would be able to use them someday. The Pediatric Cancer Genome Project is sequencing the entire genomes of normal and cancer cells from more than 600 patients. Although we’ll never know for sure, we hope that perhaps Kelley is contributing to this study.

That’s the thing about St. Jude. Not only do the children receive the best treatment, but the scientists learn valuable lessons from each of those children, whether they survive or not.

I encourage everyone to invest just a little time in learning more about the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project. Sometimes, when I talk to people from other cities, they say, “Well, I’m committed to the children’s hospital here in our area.” And I say, “Great! Then you know how important it is to improve treatment. Information from the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project is shared freely worldwide, so you’ll contribute to your hospital’s knowledge base by investing in this remarkable St. Jude project.”

Scientists in the project already are making exciting discoveries. The results speak for themselves. I can’t think of a better place to put your efforts than by helping St. Jude with the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project.

Allan McArtor, chair of the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project fundraising campaign, is a longtime member of the ALSAC/ St. Jude Professional Advisory Council and was named the 2012 Cardinal Stritch Donor of the Year. Currently chairman of Airbus Americas, McArtor’s career has included service in the Air Force as well as senior leadership positions at FedEx, Legend Airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Reprinted from Promise Summer 2012

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