CureSearch for Children's Cancer


  • Health

  • United States

  • Children and youth, Economically disadvantaged people

  • Public charity

  • $6,364,707 (2015)

  • 36

Executive Summary

In 2017, cancer will kill thousands of children. Tens of thousands will experience life long, treatment related health and emotional effects; many will die prematurely. Thousands of drugs kill cancer cells and many cure cancer in animals, but too often the research ends there. Why? The pediatric cancer drug development process is broken. Knowledge and expertise needed to deliver promising treatments to children resides in silos that rarely collaborate. Ineffective funding models and pervasive biases hinder progress. CureSearch Catapult offers a better way-facilitating collaboration, incentivizing treatment development through evergreen funding, creating resources, and deploying expertise to expedite development, clinical testing, and licensing. Our plan will save lives, reduce long lasting effects, and spare families the heartbreak and hardships of the pediatric cancer experience. Unprecedented in the field, Catapult applies proven concepts to achieve our mission: Ending childhood cancer by driving targeted and innovative research with measurable results in an accelerated time frame.

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The Problem

Every day, 43 parents hear the words, Your child has cancer. 83% of these children will survive 5 years, but most (70%) face lifelong, treatment related health problems. Nick was diagnosed with leukemia at age four. Treated with radiation and chemotherapy, he was considered a survivor because he was alive five years after diagnosis. But Nick suffered treatment related toxicities-impaired growth/cognition, damaged organs, and a secondary cancer-leading to his death at 19. Nearly 16,000 children in the US and 300,000 globally are diagnosed with cancer annually; in many countries, survival rates are only 20%. Cancer is the #1 disease killer of children in the US, while treatments cause life threatening cumulative burdens of disease for many of the 388,000 survivors. In the US, only three cancer treatments were developed and approved specifically for children in the last 20 years; 90+ were approved for adults. Despite amazing scientific advances that could potentially increase survival and reduce toxicities, problems remain. The drug development system is broken. Academic researchers often lack the knowledge and skills to commercialize their research. Industry lacks good monetization models and resists developing children's cancer drugs because the market is small, offering little return on investment. Regulatory policies protect children from experimental therapies, but stringent oversight hinders getting new drugs to kids quickly. Collaboration across sectors is virtually nonexistent. Children deserve better-we need to break down these silos and work quickly and collaboratively to increase survival rates and reduce the cumulative burden of disease for all children with cancer.

Proposed Solution

Our solution, CureSearch Catapult, will catapult promising treatments from laboratories to children by building on our unique knowledge and understanding of, and connections within the childhood cancer space. Of all possible solutions, ours is already demonstrably breaking down silos and overcoming barriers that impede the development/deployment of better treatments. Catapult will increase childhood cancer survival rates and reduce the cumulative burden of disease for survivors by providing research assets and expertise to overcome these barriers. Our Catapult Fund will de risk the high cost of treatment development by funding clinical trials and related studies. Catapult will: 1) Create a forum where all sectors collaboratively identify and prioritize treatment targets and research projects based on their potential benefit to children with cancer; 2) Create the Catapult Fund through which investments in research will generate payback/equity/royalty revenue, providing an evergreen solution to sustainably accelerate the delivery of better treatments. 3) Establish a registry of approved drugs and those under development that researchers can use to identify those that might be repurposed for treating children's cancer; 4) Provide technical guidance/expertise to researchers navigating the complex requirements for commercializing new treatments; 5) Help developers successfully use legislative and government programs to advance cancer treatments for children; 6) Be a gateway for identifying and recruiting children for clinical trials; and 7) Create a technology solution to collect and evaluate critical data for matching patients to treatments. CureSearch Catapult incentivizes development of childhood cancer treatments, and provides resources and expertise to accelerate their development, licensing, and commercialization

Evidence of Effectiveness

CureSearch presented the Catapult concept to stakeholders during the inaugural (2016) Catapult Summit. All sectors recognized the need for a neutral forum to facilitate and expedite efforts to overcome children's cancer. Industry representatives noted the value of working collaboratively to address licensing and commercialization of treatments for small patient populations. The Coalition Against Major Diseases exemplifies the power of a neutrally managed, multi sector collaboration. The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation has fostered collaborations that helped bring 10 new drugs to market while assessing many other new treatments. The LAM Foundation brought together regulatory and pharmaceutical expertise to facilitate licensing of a treatment for a lung disease affecting just 1,500 people in the US. Catapult will apply such successful approaches to advancing childhood cancer care. The Catapult Fund provides funds for pivotal research while generating revenue to ensure evergreen funding to sustain accelerated progress in overcoming childhood cancer. Evergreen funding was pioneered by the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and National Multiple Sclerosis Society, among others. CureSearch's legal counsel brokered those ventures and brings that expertise to CureSearch Catapult. Financial expert Andrew Lo of Massachusetts Institute of Technology promotes new funding models to sustain future advances in drug development, particularly as they relate to orphan diseases (those affecting < 200,000 people in the US). His models affirm the value of creating megafunds to support a host of projects focusing on a single disease. The Catapult Fund builds on the evergreen funding model and encompasses Dr. Lo's approach.

Previous Performance

CureSearch and its predecessors played a vital role in pediatric oncology for nearly three decades, dispersing hundreds of millions of federal dollars for pediatric cancer research. In the process, we developed enduring relationships with key institutions and organizations engaged in the fight against childhood cancer. Yet for all the money spent, only three approved cancer drugs were specifically developed for children. In 2012, recognizing that both scientific and institutional barriers impede getting better, less toxic treatments to children we reinvented CureSearch. We've applied our insights and perspectives to proactively address the unmet needs of children with cancer-developing and deploying treatments to save more children and reduce the cumulative burden of disease that plagues survivors. Guided by our Scientific Advisory Council and Scientific Review Committee, our Acceleration Initiative has already changed the face of nonprofit supported pediatric cancer research by identifying key scientific hurdles, funding the best possible science to overcome them, and demanding results and accountability. CureSearch Catapult emerged in 2015 as a unique program to catapult promising treatments from basic research laboratories to clinical trials to children in an accelerated manner. Our unique Industry Advisory Council is helping us gauge the opportunities and challenges to commercializing emerging treatments. This year, we announced the Proof of Concept Catapult Award competition to financially and technically support a pediatric clinical trial of a promising new intervention. We also serve children and families dealing with pediatric cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship through clinician vetted education and support programs.

The Team

Team Purpose

Originally founded in 1987 as Orion Medical Sciences Institute to fund and support pediatric cancer research, 30 years later CureSearch is determined to end childhood cancer. Our constantly evolving strategy and research focus set us apart from other cancer organizations. While many support basic or translational research, most promising treatments never advance into clinical trials, and therefore never reach children. Our team is laser focused on identifying and driving the most innovative pediatric cancer research with the greatest potential to quickly lead to the development and delivery of better life saving treatments to children with cancer. Thus, we define scientific obstacles to progress, provide financial and other support to overcome those obstacles, and propel promising treatments into pediatric clinical trials. CureSearch Catapult extends this model by identifying and overcoming institutional, financial, regulatory, technological, and other barriers to getting better treatments out of laboratories and into clinics that actually treat children NOW.

Team Structure

CureSearch is a Bethesda, Maryland based 501(c)(3) organization with 28 paid staff; most work virtually from locations nationwide. Guided by an unpaid 16 member board, CureSearch is led by our Chief Executive Officer. A six member leadership team manages communications/development, operations/finance, research/programs, fundraising events, and strategic partnerships. Our staff is aided by 1,650 volunteers. We work closely with volunteers that serve pro bono on our: Scientific Advisory Council - 8 scientists and clinicians guide our research and education programs, Industry Advisory Council - 13 pharmaceutical and biotechnology company executives assess the commercial potential of our projects, Scientific Review Committee - 21 experts peer review research grant applications, and Survivorship Council - 13 childhood cancer survivors and advocates build awareness and support for the unique issues survivors encounter because of their treatment for childhood cancer. CureSearch engages consultants in intellectual property law, drug development, regulatory practices, impact assessment and evaluation, accounting and IT. Pro bono consultants include Deloitte Consulting (health informatics), Massachusetts Institute of Technology (funding models), Healthspottr (Catapult Summit), and members of the venture capital/private equity community. We partner with advocacy groups like Kids v Cancer, Coalition Against Childhood Cancer, and Alliance for Childhood Cancer, and we co fund research with other cancer nonprofits.

Past Funders

  1. Silicon Valley Community Foundation
  2. The Bank of America Charitable Foundation, Inc.
  3. Vanguard Charitable Endowment Program
  4. The Greater New Orleans Foundation
  5. Omaha Community Foundation
  6. Community Foundation of North Texas
  7. Wells Fargo Foundation
  8. The JPMorgan Chase Foundation
  9. Oklahoma City Community Foundation, Inc.

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