Annette Leslie, co-chairman of the Carson Leslie Foundation and mother of teenager Carson Leslie who, in 2010, lost his battle with medulloblastoma, brain and spine cancer, recently presented “cold staggering childhood cancer facts” as she called it, to the members of the oversight committee of the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). The meeting was used by Mrs. Leslie to advocate for children who suffer from cancer while highlighting their current situation.
A former teacher, Annette Leslie is currently a member of CPRIT’s Advisory Committee on Childhood Cancers and is dedicated to fighting pediatric cancer by giving speeches, advocating with state and federal legislators and participating in awareness campaigns. She recently spoke to CPRIT’s oversight committee, composed of nine members appointed by the Governor, as the institute is focusing more and more on pediatric cancer.
“With CPRIT, Texas is a recognized leader in cancer research, and that’s just one more reason to be Texas proud,” said Annette Leslie. “If there was someone in America walking around randomly killing 2,500 children every year, someone in America, (I’m thinking probably a Texan) would stop that killer. Cancer is that killer, claiming the lives of 2,500 kids every single year. And as a member of CPRIT, childhood cancer advisory council, today I’m sharing a few hard cold staggering childhood cancer facts.”
Despite the fact that cancer is still the number one most deadly disease in American people under 20 years old according to the American Cancer Society (ACS), the causes for most cancer types in children are unknown, making it more difficult to prevent. Pediatric cancer affects all ethnic and socio-economic sectors, with data from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) revealing a 29% increase in invasive pediatric cancer within the last 20 years.
Mrs. Leslie recalled that during the past 20 years, only two drugs designed to treat primarily pediatric cancers have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The good news is that survival rate has increased to 75%. However, she also noted that this statistic is calculated according to a five-year survival, excluding children who die after that and excluding a series of complications and chronic medical problems that result from these malignancies.
“Our committee is so grateful that CPRIT has heeded our pleas, has moved to action and voted to make childhood cancer a priority. Thank you. After CPRIT has carefully invested the billions they’re charged with into cancer research and the books are closed, CPRIT will have a legacy. I believe CPRIT has the chance to be the change for childhood cancer patients not only in Texas but across our whole planet,” added Leslie.
Despite many efforts to study and advance knowledge, treatment and cancer prevention, pediatric cancer is still a field that does not receive the same attention as adult cancers. Therefore, last summer CPRIT announced funding for a new Texas-based research project for the treatment of pediatric cancers. The awards will provide researchers with $500,000 in funding for a period of up to four years, and will be granted to Texas-based not-for-profit institutions or organizations that conduct laboratory, clinical, or population-based studies.
The awards were due in large part to the efforts from the Carson Leslie Foundation, with Annette Leslie applauding the initiatives from CPRIT to advance pediatric cancer. In December, she had also apprised the efforts of the institute to boost their focus on neglected areas of oncological research, including underfunded studies on childhood cancer, as she believes that new programs can be determinant to increase survival and quality of life of children who suffer from cancer.