Danny Thomas was a struggling young entertainer when he prayed to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of hopeless causes. Show me my way in life, he vowed, and I will build you a shrine. Danny went on to become a popular star of radio, film and television, and he rallied support from family, friends and fans to create a shrine to another seemingly hopeless cause – defeating childhood cancer.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital opened in 1962 and today is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
On this page, you'll find additional content about the work and successes of St. Jude that will enhance your visit to the Danny Thomas/ALSAC Pavilion.
In the turbulent 1960s, St. Jude made headlines as the South’s first fully integrated children’s hospital. Founder Danny Thomas promised medical care regardless of a family’s race, creed or financial circumstances. Today, as in 1962, no family receives a bill for treatment, travel, housing or food — because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.
St. Jude is a place where great science is melded with great humanity. We care for patients and their families, walking side-by-side with them throughout their journeys.
- St. Jude has been dedicated to the research and treatment of sickle cell disease since before the hospital opened.
- In 1959, the hospital received its first research bequest—a $10,000 grant to Lemuel Diggs, MD, for the study of the disease.
- In 1977, the hospital launched the nation’s first major effort to understand the lifelong progression of sickle cell disease.
- Six years later, a St. Jude patient was the first person to be cured of the disease through a bone marrow transplant.
- A national study led by St. Jude showed hydroxyurea, an inexpensive and easy-to-administer drug used to treat adult sickle cell disease, can also be safely used in children.
- As quality of life has improved for patients with sickle cell disease, St. Jude has turned its attention to helping them make the important transition from pediatric to adult care to ensure they live long, healthy lives.
Infection accounts for 30% of all childhood deaths and is a major risk for children with cancer.
In 1977, St. Jude developed a treatment that not only cured a type of pneumonia frequently fatal to children with compromised immune systems, but also prevented that disease and other bacterial infections. The treatment became even more important when it was later shown to prevent or effectively treat a life-threatening form of pneumonia in patients with AIDS.
In recent years, researchers at St. Jude have developed new techniques for predicting and preventing infection in patients with weakened immune systems.
- Flu is a leading cause of illness and death. Our staff collaborates with scientists around the globe in tracking the emergence of new flu strains.
- The hospital is home to the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center for Studies on the Ecology of Influenza in Animals and Birds.
- We are also one of six Centers of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance funded through the National Institutes of Health.
- St. Jude researchers track emerging flu viruses and guide the development of flu vaccines. This work is vital to meeting the challenge posed by the new strains that arrive each flu season.
- With their deep experience tracking the movement of influenza, our faculty and staff also helped inform responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The St. Jude Bleeding Disorders Program is an important resource for families and children affected by the disorder. The program has been named a Hemophilia Treatment Center by the federal government.
- St. Jude hemophilia patients have access to the latest clinical trials, including a study looking at the extent of joint disease in hemophilia patients and the safety of the nation’s blood supply.
- One of our hemophilia clinical trials explores the use of gene therapy for hemophilia B. The treatment involves inserting the gene for the factor IX protein into liver cells using a one-time vein infusion. The goal is to restore blood-clotting function and remove the need for frequent doses of factor IX for bleeding.
- The vector used in the gene therapy study is produced at the Children’s GMP, LLC, which is located on the St. Jude campus. St. Jude was the first pediatric research center to have an on-site Good Manufacturing Practices facility. The Children’s GMP produces biopharmaceutical products under government-approved manufacturing guidelines.
- To provide access to therapy for patients who otherwise may not receive treatment, St. Jude and the World Federation of Hemophilia are collaborating on a program to conduct a gene therapy clinical trial for treatment of severe hemophilia B in low- and middle-income countries.
- In 2019, St. Jude announced that gene therapy developed on our campus cured infants born with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID-X1). The children are producing functional immune cells, including T cells, B cells and natural killer cells, for the first time.
- The children were enrolled in an ongoing clinical trial of infants newly diagnosed with SCID-X1, the most common type of SCID, a rare, life-threatening genetic disorder that is sometimes called “bubble boy” disease. The name is a reference to measures taken to protect patients, who are born with little or no immune protection. Untreated, patients usually die early in life.
- The patients were treated at St. Jude and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco with gene therapy produced in the Children’s GMP, LLC, a Good Manufacturing Practice facility located on the St. Jude campus.
As a result of the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project (PCGP):
- St. Jude released the largest-ever volume of comprehensive human cancer genome data for free access by the global scientific community. The amount of information released more than doubled the volume of high-coverage, whole genome data available from all human genome sources combined.
- TIME magazine named the PCGP to its list of medical breakthroughs in 2012.
- The project yielded groundbreaking findings regarding brain tumors, leukemia, solid tumors and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
- The findings pinpointed mutations never before linked to cancer, identified subtype-specific mutations, defined novel cancer subtypes, highlighted how cancer develops and revealed changes that affect how cells “read” genes.
- The PCGP’s second phase has taken genomic medicine to the next level. Phase II includes digging deeper into the genomic makeup of pediatric cancers.
- The project revealed that nearly 1 in 10 childhood cancer patients carry germline (inherited) mutations in known cancer predisposition genes.
- St. Jude created a Cancer Predisposition Program for children and families who may have inherited genetic mutations that leave them at higher-than-normal risk of cancer.
- St. Jude cancer patients are now offered clinical genomic testing of their tumor and healthy tissue. Test results may reveal mutations that drive the growth of cancer cells, allowing doctors to select targeted therapies linked to better outcomes. The results may also uncover inherited genetic changes that lead to a higher risk of causing diseases such as cancer. These are called cancer predisposition genes.
- The hospital has opened several clinical trials that reflect insights gained from the PCGP.
- PCGP findings are incorporated into other international clinical trials for children with cancer.