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St. Baldrick’s and the Children’s Oncology Group: An Ambitious Relationship

October 11, 2021
5 min read
St. Baldricks Foundation and Childrens Oncology Group Logos

Did you know: The St. Baldrick’s Foundation and Children’s Oncology Group have been partners in the fight against childhood cancer since our founding. The Children’s Oncology Group (COG) is the world’s largest research organization devoted exclusively to childhood and adolescent cancer research. The COG unites more than 10,000 experts in childhood cancer at more than 200 leading children’s hospitals, universities, and cancer centers across North America, Australia, New Zealand, and Saudi Arabia in the fight against childhood cancer.

  • More than 90% of children and adolescents diagnosed with cancer each year in the United States are cared for at COG institutions.
  • The COG has nearly 100 active clinical trials open at any given time.
  • COG research has turned children’s cancer from a virtually incurable disease 50 years ago to one with a combined 5-year survival rate of more than 80% today.

“But surviving 5 years after diagnosis is not enough,” says COG Group Chair Doug Hawkins, M.D. Many kids die after that 5-year milestone as a result of their cancer or the treatments they had. And for some childhood cancers, there still is no cure. That’s why both the COG and St. Baldrick’s focus on research to give kids far more than 5 years – to “Give Kids a Lifetime.”

Doug Hawkins MD Childrens Oncology Group Chair

The goal of the COG is to cure all children and adolescents with cancer, reduce the short and long-term complications of cancer treatments, and determine the causes and find ways to prevent childhood cancer.

Clearly this is an ambitious goal St. Baldrick’s is solidly behind!

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is the largest supporter of the COG, aside from the U.S. Government.

Since 2005, St. Baldrick’s has awarded more than $90 million to the COG. These funds are distributed by the COG to its member institutions, and in this way, St. Baldrick’s supports virtually every institution qualified to treat childhood cancers. These funds support research for cures and better treatments, helping to open and maintain lifesaving clinical trials.

The results of COG clinical trials set the standard of care in childhood cancer treatment. According to the COG, a higher percentage of newly diagnosed children with cancer and their families participate in clinical trials than newly diagnosed adults with cancer (estimated at less than 5%). So, what is a clinical trial? Clinical trials are used to determine the most effective and safest treatment for a disease. Each trial is aimed at improving survival rates or reducing side effects or late effects of treatment. There are two types of clinical trials, therapeutic and non-therapeutic:

  • Therapeutic trials provide a specific treatment to enrolled patients to study its impact on cancer. There are three different phases of therapeutic trials – Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III.
  • Non-therapeutic trials are ones which do not provide a treatment to patients, but instead study important factors which help advance the understanding of cancer and its impact. Non-therapeutic studies often lead to therapeutic ones.

All COG member institutions or children’s hospitals must maintain the highest standards for treating patients with cancer. They follow COG-defined protocols to prove their scientific, medical and ethical scientific expertise. To help develop new ways to treat cancer, COG members submit diagnostic, treatment and follow-up data to a central place in order to combine the data from many patients and obtain results rapidly. The group then builds on this knowledge to determine the next steps for research.

Keeping up with these requirements is A LOT of work for institutions. To help ensure funds are available to meet these high standards the COG provides “per case reimbursements” for every enrollment on a clinical trial. This is a set dollar amount for every child or young adult enrolled, which supports the personnel needed to open and maintain clinical trials.

Most of the St. Baldrick’s funds to the COG support these per patient reimbursements.

In addition, St. Baldrick’s has supported two critical areas of childhood cancer research that might be otherwise overlooked: The COG High Impact initiatives and Project:Every Child.

High Impact Initiative: Some clinical trials are at risk of not enrolling enough patients to provide the necessary data to improve treatment, and these have been chosen to be part of this special initiative. As an incentive, institutions that open a set of these trials received additional reimbursement through the St. Baldrick’s grant. This has been incredibly successful with an 87% increase in institutions opening these designated trials, followed by a 97% increase in patient enrollments on the trials.

Project:Every Child is a non-therapeutic trial that aims to capture biologic (tissue samples) and outcome data for every child diagnosed with cancer – no matter how common or rare. These tissue samples can be studied by scientists around the world, and that research leads to better treatments for all children with cancer.

Another way St. Baldrick’s and the COG are aligned: St. Baldrick’s sponsors the Family Handbook created by the COG and given to patients at the time of diagnosis. This handbook provides detailed and important information for families about what to expect as they move through treatment. This information is also now available in the COG KidsCare smart phone app.

“We cannot over-emphasize the importance of our partnership with St. Baldrick’s. For more than 15 years, St. Baldrick’s has been essential to COG’s success. In many ways, our stories are the same story.” Dr. Hawkins’ said.

Collaboration has always been necessary to advance research in childhood cancers, and St. Baldrick’s is proud to support the COG in our mutual mission: to give kids a lifetime.

Donate now and help support research into better treatments for kids with cancer.