Posts tagged ‘dance marathon’

‘Four Diamonds is absolutely instrumental for testing novel ideas’

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Four Diamonds support brings new pediatric cancer researchers to Penn State College of Medicine

Editor’s Note: Penn State’s THON Weekend is Feb. 19-21. Students will dance for 46-hours to support pediatric cancer patients. To date, $127 million has been raised and donated to Four Diamonds, a foundation that supports the families of pediatric patients at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, and the cancer research done here. For more information on THON, or to watch the activities live, visit THON.org. For more information on Four Diamonds, visit FourDiamonds.org.

Their journeys started halfway around the world, but their shared passion for uncovering the causes of pediatric cancer brought them to Penn State College of Medicine. Dr. Wei Li is originally from Peking, China, and Dr. Vladimir Spiegelman is originally from Moscow. Now both are in Hershey, through funding from Four Diamonds, working to understand how pediatric cancers develop in the hopes of discovering new lifesaving therapies.

Dr. Li, assistant professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, came from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Dr. Spiegelman, Pan Hellenic Dance Marathon Endowed Chair in Pediatric Oncology and professor in the Department of Pediatrics, was most recently at University of Wisconsin.

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February 16, 2016 at 3:23 pm Leave a comment

Homeland Security Program Graduate Put Knowledge to Use During Boston Marathon Bombing

When Charlotte Palmer Roy graduated from Penn State College of Medicine’s graduate program in homeland security in 2012, she had no idea her new found knowledge would be put to the ultimate test just one year later during the Boston Marathon bombing. Palmer Roy is the emergency management coordinator at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston.

Every year the marathon route runs past the hospital, at mile 17, and it’s Palmer Roy’s job to prepare the staff and facility for the usual influx of race-related injuries and illnesses.

As Palmer Roy recalls, the day of the horrific event—Monday, April 15, 2013—started out relatively uneventful. At 2:49 p.m., when the bombs detonated near the finish line, her emergency operations center team was getting ready to close up shop.

Instead of heading home for the day, the team braced for the emergency.

Newton-Wellesley is not a trauma facility, so the hospital didn’t receive bombing victims. But the threat of secondary devices meant runners needed to get off the race route as soon as possible, so Palmer Roy’s team set up respite areas in the hospital. A few hours later, the runners were moved to Newton City Hall and then bussed back to the finish line in Boston.

Throughout it all, Palmer Roy said, hospital staff anxiously awaited news of coworkers and loved ones participating in and working at the race.

The next four days continued to be challenging, culminating in a shelter-in-place order on Friday during the manhunt for bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

“We were told that he was potentially injured, potentially seeking medical care and potentially wearing a suicide vest,” Palmer Roy said. “That was a challenge because none of the hospitals with an exception of one in Boston are armed.”

Palmer Roy brought in the National Guard to protect the hospital staff and patients in case the bomber showed up there.

“We learned a lot that day about what shelter-in-place means for a hospital,” Palmer Roy said.  “It meant that we could not get staff in or out, and we could not get supplies in. We also could not get discharged patients out, but two hospitals in Boston were diverting their ambulances to us. So we were very quickly surging out at the seams.”

The shelter-in-place status was lifted that evening, but the aftermath of the bombing was not short-lived.

“It was an emotional roller coaster from Monday through the following year, until we got through another marathon,” Palmer Roy said. “We typically plan for the race beginning in February. Well, we started planning for the next year’s marathon the day after that marathon.”

In 2014, and again this year, Palmer Roy coordinated security for the race not just at the local and state level, but also with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA and the National Guard.

“Security along the route was phenomenal. We had 20 SWAT team members and bomb-sniffing dogs here on our campus.”

Palmer Roy said her training at Penn State College of Medicine was invaluable in helping her deal with the bombing and its aftermath.

“For example, I took a course on agriculture biosecurity,” she said. “When we were planning for the marathon the year after the bombing, we were looking at anything and everything that could possibly happen. The agroterrorism piece came in because we had to make sure we were protecting our food and water supply.

“The disaster psychology course helped me understand what needed to be done within our hospital collaborative to support the staff,” she continued. “It helped me understand what people needed initially, and also to recognize the fact that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix for anybody. Anniversaries bring back memories, and watching things on TV can cause secondary trauma. I learned that in the course, so we cautioned people to stay informed but not be overly engrossed in the media.”

Penn State College of Medicine began offering the nation’s first graduate degree in homeland security with a medical focus in 2006. The online intercollege Master of Professional Studies (iMPS) in Homeland Security with an option in Public Health Preparedness is offered through the Penn State World Campus. A working mom, Palmer Roy attended classes at night for two years.

“It was the only way I was going to be able to reach my goals, so it was a perfect fit for me,” she said.

Palmer Roy said the program prepared her not just for the marathons but also for threats like a recent homegrown terrorist plot to behead Boston police officers.

“There are things in Penn State’s courses on critical infrastructure, terrorism and communications that I use every day,” she said. “Some I wish I never had to use, some I thought I never would use.”

This spring semester, the former student became a teaching assistant for the Critical Infrastructure Protection of Health Care Delivery Systems course. Palmer Roy also recently contributed to a son how healthcare and emergency-preparedness workers prepared for and recovered from the 2013 marathon.

“A lot of the preparedness efforts that go into a marathon and disaster and emergency planning here at the hospital, locally and statewide really all did come together and work that day,” Palmer Roy said of the events of 2013. “I hope it never has to again.”

-Jennifer Abbasi

July 23, 2015 at 9:30 am 1 comment

Four Diamonds assists families like the Hess family during cancer fights

Editor’s Note: Penn State’s THON Weekend is Feb. 20-22. Students will dance for 46-hours to support pediatric cancer patients. To date, $114 million has been raised and donated to Four Diamonds, a foundation that supports the families of pediatric patients at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, and the cancer research done here. For more information on THON, or to watch the activities live, visit THON.org. For more information on Four Diamonds, visit FourDiamonds.org.

Playing iPad games and shaking a tambourine may not seem special to the parents of most preschoolers.

But, for parents of children battling cancer, it’s the little things like these that can brighten even the darkest of days.

Providing normalcy in the midst of treatment is part of the services supported by Four Diamonds, the sole beneficiary of The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) happening this weekend.

Four Diamonds supports children and their families facing the challenges of pediatric cancer by paying for care and treatment not covered by insurance or other means as well as additional expenses that disrupt the welfare of the children.

Lydia Hess

Lydia Hess

One of those families is the Hess family from Harrisburg. Lydia was diagnosed with leukemia in April of 2014 at the age of 2.

Four Diamonds makes it possible for 16 specialty care providers to be available exclusively to Four Diamonds patients and their families – including child life specialists, a clinical nutritionist, a clinical psychologist, nurse specialists, social workers, music therapists, a clinical nutritionist, and pastoral care.

“All of those things have made Lydia’s life and our days so much easier,” said Julie Hess, Lydia’s mother. “Just to make one day easier is a big deal to us. We’ve had a lot of really hard days.”

Lydia’s diagnosis was a complete surprise to the family. Last winter, she had recurring fevers.

“She was 2 and interacting with other kids — going to preschool once a week, swim classes and church– so we figured she was just picking up all the germs,” Julie said.

In April, Lydia’s fever spiked higher than normal and she began complaining of finger pain. Julie and her husband, Brandon, suspected something unusual was happening.

“The pediatrician examined her and said ‘let’s do some x-rays, let’s do some blood work,’ but they never mentioned the word cancer or leukemia,” Julie said.

Two hours after Lydia’s appointment, her doctor called the family.

“You know when you get a call at home that quickly after you’ve been there, it’s not good,” Julie said.

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February 20, 2015 at 7:01 am Leave a comment

Pediatric experimental cancer therapeutics program’s success is thanks to Four Diamonds support

Editor’s Note: Penn State’s THON Weekend is Feb. 20-22. Students will dance for 46-hours to support pediatric cancer patients. To date, $114 million has been raised and donated to Four Diamonds, a foundation that supports the families of pediatric patients at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, and the cancer research done here. For more information on THON, or to watch the activities live, visit THON.org. For more information on Four Diamonds, visit FourDiamonds.org.

Dr. Valerie Brown

Dr. Valerie Brown

When Dr. Valerie Brown was hired as clinical director of the experimental therapeutics program in the Division of Pediatric Oncology/Hematology at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, she had a vision: Develop a menu of experimental cancer treatment options not available in the region.

Through funding from Four Diamonds, her vision is becoming a reality, helping young cancer patients find alternatives when standard care isn’t enough.

Experimental therapeutics are typically phase 1 and 2 clinical trials. In phase 1 trials, researchers are looking for toxicity in the therapies. In phase 2 trials, the effectiveness of the therapies on specific cancer types is studied before testing in bigger studies.

“I really hit the ground running, and one of the things we needed to do was expand the portfolio because you don’t want to compete with other academic medical centers,” Brown said. “You want to offer things not offered at other places and be able to offer a variety of different studies for a large spectrum of cancer types.”

To help with that goal, Penn State Hershey joined several consortiums including the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium. The consortiums bring together several institutions all sharing the same goal by working together cooperatively, opening up access to a variety of clinical trials.

Brown has seen how the approach is working.

In one case, a child had neuroblastoma in remission and was set to participate in a study to keep the cancer in remission, called maintenance therapy. But as scans and imaging were completed, it was discovered that she relapsed and the cancer had returned.

“That meant she wasn’t eligible for the maintenance therapy study,” Brown said. “But instead of having to turn that child away with her disappointed mom, devastated with news that the neuroblastoma had returned, we had another protocol that is a treatment for relapsed neuroblastoma. If we didn’t have that portfolio of clinical studies ready, she would have had to leave and go somewhere else.”

In this case, the study is a personalized – or precision – medicine study. The tumor’s DNA and RNA are extracted from a piece of the tumor and are analyzed and compared against normal tissues in the body and other cancer type cells.

“Therapies are based on how the same tumor types typically react to treatment,” Brown said. “But each tumor is individual, and if the person has relapsed, we already know it isn’t reacting like a typical tumor. By analyzing the patient’s individual tumor, we try to find out what differences are making it react differently, and then we decide what we think will be the best difference to target for treatment.”

These results are then compared and prioritized by a computer program against a panel of about 200 agents – some of which are alternative like the spice curcumin, which is known to be active against cancers.

Those reports are then sent to primary investigators at the centers across the country that participate in the consortium. People are assigned to review the case and come up with a treatment plan based upon these reports, which is then discussed virtually through a tumor board.

“That day, as badly as I felt for that poor mom and child because she relapsed, I turned to our medical director and I said, ‘this is why we set up our program like we have. This is the vision we had, and it is benefitting our patients,’” Brown said.

Including studies in the Children’s Oncology Group, there are currently up to 40 trials available, with around 10 being early phase trials. Patients have travelled from nearby states to participate in the studies.

“People are coming from other states because the treatment options are not available there,” Brown said. “By word of mouth, and on social media from the parents, people have recognized that we are offering things that nobody is offering nearby.”

She continues to look for opportunities to connect Penn State Hershey doctors and scientists with peers at other institutions. She also actively looks for opportunities to move Penn State Hershey research in the laboratories into clinical trials through the consortiums.

“These parents are coming to us and are really at the end of the rope for their children,” Brown said. “You could offer, ‘I read a paper and they tried this and maybe…’ but the science side of me just can’t let that happen. We have to do this in a systematic way because we really want to make sure what we treat our children with is effective and not hurting them more. That can only be done in the context of studies and trials.”

All of this would not be possible without the support of Four Diamonds and the Penn State students who work hard throughout the year raising funds through THON.

“It takes time. It takes money. It takes resources,” Brown said. “Luckily I have a lot of those things here that I didn’t have at other places. Without the Four Diamonds’ backing, and its recognition of the importance of having an early phase program, none of this could happen and I wouldn’t be here. The money, in my opinion, has been well spent because even if these children don’t have the outcomes we want, we are contributing to the wealth of knowledge, and hopefully pushing it along so that the next child who walks through the door won’t have to go through a relapse or undergo such intense treatments.”

February 19, 2015 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

The story of Sir Millard lives on through The Four Diamonds Fund and THON

You may know the legend of King Arthur, but chances are you do not know the story of Sir Millard, the evils he faced or the battles he won, even though every year, the new-age knights he has inspired take up his quest to battle pediatric cancer.

Every year, those champions, in the form of 15,000 Penn State student volunteers, fight their battle via year-long fundraising that culminates in THON weekend at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania. This weekend marks the forty-first annual THON dance marathon.

Sir Millard, a.k.a. Christopher Millard, penned his story called “The Four Diamonds” before he died of cancer at the age of 14 in 1972. He had no way of knowing the legacy he would leave behind.

The day he died at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, his parents, Charles and Irma Millard, started the Four Diamonds Fund to raise money to assist pediatric cancer patients and their families with expenses outside those insurance will cover while their children are undergoing treatment.

Photo of the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State during a THON weekend packed with dancers and supporters.

THON fills the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State for 46 hours of dancing, music and emotional excitement one weekend each year.

THON weekend is a celebration of the efforts of the volunteers–joined by their fellow students, Four Diamonds Families, and their many supporters–who dedicate their time to raising money and increasing awareness for pediatric cancer.

It is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, raising $89 million to date, more than $10 million last year alone. Participants hope to surpass $100 million with this year’s total, which exclusively benefits the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. (more…)

February 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm Leave a comment

The Four Diamonds Fund celebrates forty years

Charles Millard with child at THON

Charles Millard (pictured) and his wife Irma founded The Four Diamonds Fund on the day their son Chris passed away in 1972.

It all started with a call to arms—conquer childhood cancer—that hasn’t changed for forty years.  When the Four Diamonds Fund first appeared in 1972, there was little chance for a cure and treatment choices were limited. Since its inception, however, Four Diamonds has provided more than 3,200 children and their families touched by cancer the means to fight back.

From Despair to Hope

The vision for the Four Diamonds Fund began during the darkest days of Charles and Irma Millard’s life. In 1970, the couple was visiting Children’s Hospital Boston with their beloved 12-year-old son, Chris, who was being treated for rhabdomyosarcoma of the nasopharynx. There, the Millards discovered the Jimmy Fund, a program that covered all out-of-pocket medical costs for children receiving therapy for cancer at the hospital. “That’s where we came up with the idea to start a fund that would benefit families in central Pennsylvania,” Charles Millard says. “In 1972, on the day Chris died at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, we initiated the Fund.”

For the couple, then living in Elizabethtown, their main goal was to relieve the financial burden that other young families may face during their battle with cancer, while providing support for the best medical care available. “In the first five years, it was slow moving, but we continued to do fundraisers,” Millard says.  “We felt really thankful that we had the opportunity to take this negative experience in our lives—the loss of our son—and turn it into something so positive.”

A Place of Healing and Caring

The mission of the Four Diamonds Fund is to conquer childhood cancer by assisting children treated at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital and their families by funding superior care, comprehensive support, and pediatric cancer research.

Over the years, the organization has expanded its ability to take care of these desperately ill children. Today, a world-class team of professionals provide comprehensive medical care—including pediatric oncologists, nurse specialists, social workers and child life specialists. Some 100 new patient families benefit from Four Diamonds each year. That support includes getting the cost of all uncovered medical bills paid.

“Drawing on these resources, we are able to provide a level of cancer care, second to none,” says A. Craig Hillemeier, M.D., chair, Department of Pediatrics, at the Children’s Hospital. “If you are treating a child with cancer, you are really treating the whole family, and because of the Four Diamonds Fund, we are able to give a much more complete response to the terrible reality that the child and family experience.”

(more…)

July 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm 3 comments


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