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Tree lighting for pediatric cancer awareness

group photo of participants at the CSHL tree lighting ceremony for pediatric cancer awareness month

On September 6th, families, foundations, friends, colleagues, board members and researchers gathered at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to participate in the first annual tree lighting ceremony to commemorate September as pediatric cancer research awareness month. This dedicated group specifically supports Rhabdomyosarcoma research in the lab of CSHL Professor Chris Vakoc. A group of passionate people banded together using a different approach to funding and research to develop tools for a different outcome. Six years after the Friends of TJ, Christina Renna Foundation and Michelle Paternoster Foundation funded a Banbury meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the grass roots funders and dedicated scientists are finding reasons for optimism.

With pediatric cancer consistently underfunded, researchers rely on the generous support from private donors and foundations to bring novel therapeutics and cutting edge research to the fight against Rhabdomyosarcoma and other pediatric cancers. Using a CRISPR-based screen that can report whenever a gene loss allows rhabdo cells to myodifferentiate, CSHL has identified strategies for changing rhabdo cells in normal muscle.  In addition, they have discovered several targets in Ewing’s Sarcoma, Rhabdomyosarcoma, and Synovial Sarcoma. With addition of the Mary Ruchalski Foundation, the Daniella Conte Foundation, William’s Echo Summers Way, Miles Levin Foundation and Maddie’s Promise foundations all joining in the fight to find treatment and cures for Rhado, this group has grown to become a powerful force in the fight against Rhabdo.

After remarks from Carol Ruchalski and Phil Renna, Chris Vakoc updated the group on his teams latest discoveries and enjoyed catching up with each other.