On September 6, 2022, families, foundations, friends, colleagues, board members, and researchers gathered at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) 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. Eight years after the Friends of TJ, Christina Renna Foundation, and Michelle Paternoster Foundation funded a Banbury meeting at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, the grassroots funders and dedicated scientists are finding reasons for optimism.
With pediatric cancer consistently underfunded, researchers rely on 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 the addition of the Mary Ruchalski Foundation, the Daniella Conte Foundation, William’s Echo Summers Way, Miles Levin Foundation, and Maddie’s Promise Foundation all joining in the fight to find treatment and cures for rhabdo, this group has grown to become a powerful force in the fight against sarcomas.
After remarks from Carol Ruchalski and Phil Renna, Chris Vakoc updated the group on his team’s latest discoveries and attendees enjoyed catching up with each other.