PHOENIX, Ariz. — Dec. 22, 2015 — An 8-year-old girl's dream of becoming a veterinarian, cut short by a deadly tumor, is the driving force behind a $30,000 donation to support research of dogs and children with cancer at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).
Brooke Hester waged a valiant battle with cancer for nearly five years before succumbing to her disease in June. She had been part of an innovative study for children with rare cancers conducted by TGen and its clinical collaborators.
In her memory, a $30,000 donation to TGen was made today by Brooke's Blossoming Hope for Childhood Cancer Foundation. Funds were raised in September at the 3rd annual Be Bold Glow Gold 5K and the Gold Collar Companion Campaign, where donors who help both kids and dogs with cancer receive a beautiful pediatric cancer gold metallic collar for their dog.
"Brooke's own beautiful spirit of giving can go on this way. She would have been so proud of this project and donation. As the holidays approach, and as some children receive puppies as gifts, I believe this donation to help both kids and dogs with cancer would have been Brooke's Christmas wish," said her mother, Jessica Hester, Executive Director of Brooke's Blossoming Hope foundation.
Dr. Jeffrey Trent, TGen President and Research Director, welcomed the donation with warm memories of Brooke and how she inspired researchers at TGen.
"We can't thank you enough for your support for our research," Dr. Trent related to Brooke's mother, Jessica. "We think about Brooke so often, and she will always be our inspiration. Brooke truly was a medical pioneer, having her treatment tailored to her genomic information. Unfortunately, 60 percent of dogs reaching 10 years of age die of cancer. This support will allow scientists and veterinarians to follow Brooke's pioneering lead, by studying new treatment options for our canine friends."
TGen's genomic analysis of canine cancer could help develop new therapies for children with cancer. Pure-breed dogs, whose genetics have been standardized by hundreds of years of human intervention, provide highly predictable genetic models that can be used to designing clinical trials, where targeted treatments can be matched to the molecular profiles of human patients.
"Extraordinary potential lies in aligning studies of sporadic cancers in dogs with drug development in human cancers," said Dr. William Hendricks, Research Assistant Professor in TGen's Integrated Cancer Genomics Division.
Brooke's story went viral through a YouTube video of her holding hands with singer-songwriter Miranda Lambert, who teared up when Brooke gave her a flower during a 2014 concert in Brooke's hometown of Corpus Christi.
Now, Brooke is the face of Brooke's Blossoming Hope, a charity that raises global awareness for childhood cancers, fosters research, and donates decorative headbands to girls and hats to boys who have lost their hair while fighting the disease. More than 50,000 children in more than 45 countries have received these gifts.
In 2010, at age 3, Brooke was diagnosed with advanced neuroblastoma, an aggressive type of cancer of the peripheral nervous system that most often affects young children.
Brooke's initial symptoms included a painless limp, unexplained fevers and stomachaches, followed by pain in her belly and spine. Scans discovered a large tumor in her abdomen, pressing on her left kidney, spine and internal organs. The cancer also was discovered in her lymph nodes and bone marrow.
She received three years of targeted genomic therapy through precision medicine clinical trials led by Dr. Trent and Dr. Giselle Sholler, head of the pediatric oncology translational research program at Spectrum Health's Helen DeVos Children's Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Brooke was treated.
Dr. Sholler chairs the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC), a global network of 27 universities and hospitals researching childhood cancers. Computing power for the project has been funded by Dell Inc.
Following genomic sequencing of her surgically removed tumor tissue, Brooke received targeted therapy designed specifically to address her cancer, which extended her survival.
"None of us knows our time, or how much time we have, but what we do know is that we will never stop fighting to find and fund cures for children fighting cancer," said Brooke's mother, Jessica.
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Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based non-profit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. TGen is focused on helping patients with neurological disorders, cancer, and diabetes, through cutting edge translational research (the process of rapidly moving research towards patient benefit). TGen physicians and scientists work to unravel the genetic components of both common and rare complex diseases in adults and children. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities literally worldwide, TGen makes a substantial contribution to help our patients through efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. For more information, visit: http://www.tgen.org. Follow TGen on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter @TGen.