The Solving Kids Cancer 6th Annual Spring Celebration was held June 8 at 583 Park Avenue, raising $650,000 for childhood cancer research. This year’s Spring Celebration honored Roger Jeffs, PhD, president and Co-CEO of United Therapeutics, and Yoganathan Ratheesan, Founder and Chairman of Lebara Group. Dr. Jeffs was recognized for his work with United Therapeutics, which recently received approval for Unituxin, the first FDA-approved therapy for pediatric patients with high-risk neuroblastoma. Ratheesan was recognized for his incredible work through the Lebara Foundation to support disadvantaged children across the world in providing housing, health care, food, clean water and schooling for displaced communities around the world in partnership with other organizations. Ratheesan is co-owner of the Lebara Group, which is a trusted and established telecommunications business that serves 5 million active customers with operations in eight countries.
The evening also featured the extraordinary story of 19 year old Elana Simon during The Research Spotlight. Elana co-authored a study on a rare pediatric liver cancer, fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, which she was diagnosed with at age 12. At the age 16 she helped to discover a genetic mutation by having other patients send her samples of their tumor tissue through a Youtube video she posted. Today, because of Elana’s finding, the first diagnostic tests are now being developed for this deadly cancer, which will help researchers create new treatment options to target the mutation and treat the cancer. The night featured a beautiful song by Solving Kids’ Cancer Junior Ambassador, 14-year-old Celia Babini, daughter of designer Bonnie Young and photographer Luca Babini, and Wes Hutchinson. Babini sang Questioning Constellations, a song she wrote especially for Solving Kids’ Cancer.
But the highlight of the evening was when 11 childhood cancer fighters and survivors (age 4 -11) walked on stage, receiving golden star medals in recognition for their bravery and tenacity. The 300 attendees quickly rose to their feet to give a standing ovation as the children, dressed by designer Bonnie Young, beamed bright smiles before the crowd.
Christie’s Senior Vice President, International Director of Strategic Partnerships Lydia Fenet, led the Wings for a Cure Live Auction which met its goal of $300,000 which will be used to help create three clinical trials using combination PD-1 inhibitors for children with deadly childhood cancers, including brain tumors and neuroblastoma.
PD-1 inhibitors are a new category of immunotherapy treatment that has been proven as a breakthrough success in adults with metastatic melanoma and lung cancer whose cancer stopped responding to chemotherapy. PD1 inhibitors target immune cells and not cancer cells. The novelty of this approach is that the immune system is unleashed from its suppression caused by cancer, to become fully activated in fighting the cancer. Scientists agree that the most effective use of PD1 inhibitors is in combinations with other treatments that actively target cancer cells, creating a “one-two punch.”
The funds raised from the auction will create the first clinical trials in children using PD1 inhibitors in combination with other therapies, establishing a battlefront against childhood brain tumors and neuroblastoma.