In 1962 only 4% of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) survived. Today, thanks to many treatment advances, the survival rate for pediatric patients with childhood ALL is 94%. Especially between 1975and 2002, childhood cancer mortality decreaseddramatically. Overall childhood cancer survival increased by 50%, while, at the same time 5-year survival rate for ALL increased from 60% to 89% for children younger than 15 years and from 28% to 50% for adolescents aged 15 to 19 years. [1][2] Improved treatment options for other childhood cancers, including Hodgkin Lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, have contribute a dramatic increase in overall survival.Much of this progress in identifying curative therapies for childhood ALL and other childhood cancers has been achieved through investigator-driven discovery and tested in carefully planned randomized and controlled clinical trials.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemiais the most common cancer diagnosed in children. The disease represents approximately 23% of cancer diagnoses among children younger than 15 years. In the United States, there are approximately 30 – 40 cases per million children diagnosed [3][4], with a total of approximately 2,900 children and adolescents younger than 20 years being diagnosed. The observedincidence among children aged 2 to 3 years is high, with >80 cases per million per year. Rates decreasing to 20 cases per million for children ages 8 to 10 years. The incidence of ALL among children aged 2 to 3 years is approximately 4 times greater than that for infants and is nearly ten times greater than that for adolescents aged 16 to 21 years.

The incidence of ALL appears to be highest in Hispanic children (43 cases per million) [3] [4].The incidence is substantially higher in white children than in black children, with a nearly threefold higher incidence of ALL from age 2 to 3 years in white children compared with black children. [3][4]

Among children with ALL, more than 94% attain remission, and approximately 80% of the patients aged 1 to 18 years with newly diagnosed ALL treated on current regimens are expected to be long-term event-free survivors. However, despite the increase in overall survival childhood ALL, many important biologic and therapeutic questions remain to be answered before the goal of curing every child with ALL with the least associated treatment toxicity can be achieved.

One of the leading global non-profit organization dedicated to curing blood cancers, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society(LLS),the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer,has, for example, invested nearly one billion dollars in blood cancer research since 1954, bringing us closer than ever to realizing a world without blood cancers.

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A unique approach in fundraising
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has achieved an unique leadership position through an approach to research and fundraising. Its venture philanthropy model forges partnerships with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, academia, medical centers and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to foster the process of drug discovery from basic research to translational and clinical research. Rather than duplicate what the federal government is funding, LLS developed its own research agenda to accelerate the development of promising new life-saving therapies with a focus on un-met medical need.

“We’re not your grandfather’s charity,” said Louis DeGennaro, PhD, LLS chief mission officer. “There is no means of preventing or early screening for blood cancers, so our focus is on life-saving research to find cures. Our research funding has touched the discovery or development of nearly every therapy used in the battle against blood cancers ? including targeted drugs, like Gleevec?, Velcade? and Kyprolis?, and immunotherapies, like Rituxan?.”

The pathway to cures.
Blood cancers, which include leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes, are hematologic malignancies with a unique link to the cancer research community. Many innovations such as multi-drug chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation started as blood cancer therapies. Nearly 50% of all cancer drugs newly approved by the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in the last 12 years were first approved for blood cancers. “Blood cancer research is a gateway to treatments and even cures for many other cancers, as well as some inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA),” explains DeGennaro. “LLS and our partners are pioneering cutting-edge cancer research at the cellular and molecular level, which has the capacity to offer significant contributions beyond even blood cancers.”

Someday is Today
“We felt it was time to put a stake in the ground, and to shine the spotlight on the urgency and accomplishments we have made toward finding cures for blood cancers. “Someday is Today,” whichwill launch this month nationwide, with emphasis in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington DC, and Dallas,is our platform to rally support for this cause,” noted John Walter, LLS chief executive officer. “People talk about curing cancer at some point in the future. But, for LLS, someday is today. Contributions made today, with our partners, volunteers and made possible by generous donors, are driving cures right now. The reality is, if you want to reduce the incidence of lung cancer, stop smoking. If you want to reduce the incidence of melanoma, use sun block. If you want to prevent the incidence of blood cancer, invest in a cure.”

According to Lisa Stockmon, senior vice president, marketing at LLS, “Our objective is to build brand awareness so people have more knowledge of what we do and the impact of what we do. We’re telling our story in a humanistic and modern way that engages our 62 chapters and also provides a marketing umbrella for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, because we want to make sure people have an emotional connection and are aware of our role in the battle against blood cancers.”

[1]Smith MA, Seibel NL, Altekruse SF, et al. Outcomes for children and adolescents with cancer: challenges for the twenty-first century. J Clin Oncol 28 (15):2625-34, 2010.
[2] Hunger SP, Lu X, Devidas M, et al.: Improved survival for children and adolescents with acute lymphoblastic leukemia between 1990 and 2005: a report from the children’s oncology group. J Clin Oncol 30 (14):1663-9, 2012.
[3]Ries LA, Kosary CL, Hankey BF, et al., eds.: SEER Cancer Statistics Review, 1973-1996. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute, 1999.Also available online Last accessed January 23, 2013.
[4] Smith MA, Ries LA, Gurney JG, et al.: Leukemia. In: Ries LA, Smith MA, Gurney JG, et al., eds.: Cancer incidence and survival among children and adolescents: United States SEER Program 1975-1995. Bethesda, Md: National Cancer Institute, SEER Program, 1999. NIH Pub.No. 99-4649., pp 17-34.Also available online. Last accessed January 29, 2013.

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