Last July, The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) announced it would honor the legacy of Carson Leslie and the Carson Leslie Foundation by naming a conference room in its new office suite in the William B. Travis State Office Building in Austin, Texas, after Carson Leslie.
The Texas-based nonprofit Carson Leslie Foundation raises funds for pediatric cancer research and provides encouragement to teens stricken with disease. It was founded by its executive director, Annette Leslie, after losing her son Carson, 17, to medulloblastoma, a brain and spine cancer, on Jan. 12, 2010.
Leslie, whose background is in teaching, sales, and event coordination, is a graduate of Southwest Texas State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and speech communication, and is a member of CPRIT’s Advisory Committee on Childhood Cancers. Honoring her promise to Carson to continue the fight against pediatric cancer, she gives speeches, calls legislators on state and federal levels, promotes sales of Carson’s book, “Carry Me,” and serves as co-chairman of The Carson Leslie Foundation. She previously served as chairman of a local pediatric cancer organization’s annual golf tournament auction that exceeded its fundraising goal, and is a talented photographer. Annette Leslie and her husband Craig live in Dallas. They have another son, Carson’s older brother, Craig.
In the years since it was established, the Carson Leslie Foundation has worked to help children and teenagers fight cancer by establishing partnerships with institutions such as CPRIT, and by honoring Carson’s memory.
“We named CPRIT’s conference room after Carson to honor his memory and to inspire us with a tangible reminder of the courage, strength, and hopefulness he showed in his fight against cancer. CPRIT has made childhood cancer a priority, funding 63 grants totaling almost $69 million. Our increased grant support is intended to accelerate progress for prevention and research of pediatric and adolescent cancers, and to help Texas become a global leader in childhood cancer research,” said CPRIT CEO Wayne Roberts in a release provided to BioNews Texas.
Carson Leslie was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a brain tumor, at the age of 14 in 2006. He shared his fight against cancer in his book, “Carry Me,” which was published six days before he died, and which he hoped would offer encouragement and strength to other young cancer patients. He asked his family to make sure that researchers study the tumors in his brain, “because if those tumors can help some kid not die from cancer like I am, I’d like that, it’s hard to have cancer.”
In “Carry Me,” Carson wrote, “My name is Carson Leslie, and I have been battling brain and spine cancer for the past three years. I love sports, babies and Mexican food.
“I have written a book to give a voice to the teenagers and children who have cancer but are unable to express how such an illness affects their personal, social, physical and emotional life. I want others to understand how to be a better friend to someone he/she knows that has a life threatening disease. Even though every day of my life is a battle, I have learned that God is always there to lift me up, and I live each day as if it were the Day of Judgement.
“I believe my story will give readers a new perspective on the importance of how words and/or actions affect those around them. I wish to make a difference, and I know others my age want to do the same. Maybe after they read my book they will discover how to live the struggle.”
Carson requested that his tombstone be inscribed with the Bible verse Joshua 1:9 — “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” — explaining: “it is not just my cancer verse, it’s my life verse and no matter how long I live, I want it written on my tombstone so if people visit my grave, they will know how God got me through my troubles in life.”
The commemorative plaque that now hangs in The Carson Leslie Conference Room reads, in part, CARSON ROBERT LESLIE, July 6, 1992 – January 12, 2010, “I can either go around mad and sad, or go around living with the strength and courage that comes from God and from the people he puts around me”. ~ Carson Leslie
This photo of Carson with country and western recording artist and Poteet, Texas native George Strait hangs in The Carson Leslie Conference Room #TexasProud
Photo Courtesy Annette Leslie
CLF’s mission statement affirms that it believes in synergy, collaboration, working together, and directing funds, and because of the unique relationship CLF has with CPRIT, its funding is tremendously leveraged.
“CPRIT has about $1.5 billion left to invest and with childhood cancer a CPRIT priority this could get really exciting!” Annette Leslie said in a news release.
CPRIT, in a statement, promises to “maintain the highest integrity and dedication to the mission of finding a cure for cancer. CPRIT’s objective is to position Texas as a world-class leader in research and prevention through collaboration with a variety of entities, including public and private institutions of higher education, academic health institutions, universities, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, public and private companies, and others involved in the fight against cancer.”
The Carson Leslie Awards for Pediatric Brain Cancers, a result of a unique relationship between CLF and CPRIT, have funded over $3.2 million in research for less toxic childhood brain cancer treatments. Recipients include:
• The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, for Genotype and Metabolic Phenotype in Pediatric Brain Cancer;
• Baylor College of Medicine, for Proton Beam Radiation Therapy vs. Conventional Beam Radiation Therapy Toxicities During and After Craniospinal Radiation Therapy in Children;
• Texas Tech University Health Science Center (using tumors from Carson), for Rational Redox-Driven Non-Toxic Therapeutic Strategies for Pediatric Brain Cancers.
A February 2016 Report submitted to the CPRIT Oversight Committee by the CPRIT Advisory Committee on Childhood Cancer (ACCC) notes that the success of CPRIT research applications focused on childhood cancer has risen substantially, in large part due to focused RFA mechanisms that have resulted in the funding of more than 30 childhood and cancer research projects to date.
Specifically, the report says an increase has been noted in the number of grants devoted to childhood and adolescent cancers (from 4 to 13 percent); prevention and early detection (13 to 17 percent); and computational biology (2 to 4 percent).
The ACCC anticipates that these numbers will continue to increase with the release of targeted RFAs devoted to these priority areas, noting, “This impact is tremendous since the life years impacted by survivors of childhood cancer greatly exceeds that of adult cancer survivors. Further evidence of this success is measured by publications and new grant dollars.”
Although that impact in this regard will take an additional three to five years to mature, the ACCC says even at this early juncture there have been more than 65 peer review publications, with numerous others in progress, that have come from these CPRIT-funded pediatric-focused research projects. These include publications in high-impact journals such as the Journal of Clinical Oncology, Blood, Nature Reviews, and Nature Communications. Additionally, CPRIT-funded investigators have been able to garner an additional $10 million in peer review funding to support their pediatric cancer research initiatives.
The report observes that CPRIT-funded research initiatives focused on pediatric cancer range from prevention strategies to survivorship. The majority of funded awards are Individual Investigator Research Awards, although there are also two funded Multi-Investigator Research Awards, including one on osteosarcoma and another on soft tissue sarcomas.
The report concludes: “The ACCC is grateful to CPRIT for its commitment to prioritizing and funding groundbreaking cancer research and prevention programs that are focused on childhood cancer. This commitment will have a profound impact for children with cancer and their families both locally and globally.”
For more information on CPRIT funding for pediatric cancer research, visit
For more information about the Carson Leslie Foundation, visit