PITTSBURGH – Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation has announced that it has received a $2.5 million gift from the Mario Lemieux Foundation to establish a new center for rare and hard-to-treat lymphomas that is expected to benefit children and young adults from around the world.
The center will focus on clinical care as well as laboratory and clinical research surrounding difficult-to-treat childhood lymphomas. It will be led by Linda McAllister-Lucas, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Children’s Hospital. She is an internationally recognized expert in lymphoma whose laboratory research has provided new insights into the molecular basis of these types of diseases.
Representatives from the Mario Lemieux Foundation, including Mario Lemieux, joined leaders from Children’s Hospital and its Foundation for the announcement. The Mario Lemieux Foundation will donate $2.5 million over seven years, with $2.5 million in matching support from UPMC.
“We are grateful to Mario and Nathalie Lemieux and to the Mario Lemieux Foundation for sharing our vision of a center that capitalizes on our unique expertise to offer hope to a group of patients with a devastating diagnosis,” said Greg Barrett, president, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation.
Lymphoma is the third most common type of childhood cancer, and in the United States, more than 1,500 children are diagnosed per year with some form of the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. While standardized treatment protocols are used for the majority of pediatric lymphoma cases, currently there is no effective treatment for up to 20 percent of patients.
“I was fortunate to have a type of lymphoma that has proven treatments with good outcomes,” Mario Lemieux said. “I want to create a place of hope for kids and young adults and their families who are diagnosed with lymphomas that have no known cures.”
In addition to the research of McAllister-Lucas, who has studied rare lymphomas with her husband, Peter Lucas, M.D., Ph.D., since 1999, Ed Prochownik, M.D., Ph.D., and J. Anthony Graves, M.D., Ph.D., both physician scientists within pediatric oncology at Children’s, direct research laboratories investigating the mechanisms that underlie the development of lymphoma. The Lemieux gift will now allow Children’s to also recruit an expert clinical researcher who can coordinate clinical trials of cutting-edge treatments for lymphomas, improving research that can have a global impact on care. In addition, the gift will foster the growth of the hospital’s Survivorship Program to support our patients who survive childhood cancer, the majority of whom have had leukemia and lymphoma.
“Children’s and Pittsburgh already had a strong infrastructure in place to provide treatment for lymphomas and other childhood cancers, including a renowned bone marrow transplant program, a cancer program dedicated to adolescents and young adults, and a close collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute,” said McAllister-Lucas, who joined Children’s and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2012 from the University of Michigan.
“The support of the Mario Lemieux Foundation gives us the ability to enhance our basic and clinical research in a way that could lead to improved and potentially new treatments for patients from around the world who currently have very limited options.”
The Mario Lemieux Foundation has been an important supporter of Children’s for many years. The Foundation endowed a fund for pediatric cancer research, has helped to build beautiful spaces within the hospital that help all our patients, including an Austin’s Playroom that is open to all inpatients and offers extended hours, and the Lemieux Sibling Center for young brothers and sisters of patients who have to accompany the family to the hospital, as well as partnered with local Microsoft employees to outfit more than 100 inpatient rooms with Xboxes to help distract kids during long hospital stays.