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$5 Million to Seattle Children’s Research Institute Accelerates Local Efforts to Cure Childhood Cancer

January 23, 2012

Children’s honors Ben Towne Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation’s gift by renaming cancer research center: Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research

Seattle Children’s Research Institute today announced a $5 million gift from Ben Towne Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation. The funding will be used to accelerate the work of Michael Jensen, MD, and his Seattle Children’s Research Institute team who are creating new cancer treatments that reprogram a child’s immune system to attack and kill cancer cells with the goal of minimizing or even eliminating the need for chemotherapy or radiation. To honor the Foundation, Seattle Children’s Research Institute will give its Center for Childhood Cancer Research, led by Dr. Jensen, a new name: Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research.

Ben Towne was only three years old when he passed away in December 2008 from neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer.  His parents, Jeff and Carin, founders of Ben Towne Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, said that in the aftermath of his death, they struggled with what to do as they moved forward with their lives. “We had seen so much suffering, not just in Ben’s life but with other children and their families battling cancer,” said Carin Towne.

“We felt like we were uniquely equipped to do something about it, so we started Ben Towne Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation with a mission to help find a cure for pediatric cancer.  This next step for the Foundation honors Ben and his legacy, cements our partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and confirms our commitment to the work that will come out of Seattle on behalf of children everywhere,” she said.

Dr. Jensen, director of the newly-named Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, shares the Towne’s vision. He joined Seattle Children’s Research Institute in 2010 after spending 13 years at City of Hope, where he conducted the first FDA-authorized trial of T-cell therapies for children with recurrent neuroblastoma.  Since joining Seattle Children’s Research Institute, he has intensified his research efforts, focusing specifically on the most urgent needs of children battling cancer.  He envisions the start of Phase I clinical trials with pediatric cancer patients by 2013.

“Ben Towne Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation is a tireless advocate for this work, leading a movement to change the way pediatric cancers are treated and someday cured,” said Dr. Jensen.  “Upon meeting Jeff and Carin, we immediately recognized our shared mission to cure pediatric cancer.  Seattle Children’s Research Institute is humbled by this gift, and is incredibly appreciative of the Foundation’s support.  Parents of children suffering from pediatric cancer ask the same question: ‘Will that next breakthrough happen in time to save my child?’  Thanks to this generous gift, we at Seattle Children’s Research Institute can accelerate the process of creating treatments for cancer that are less traumatic for kids and that save lives.”

While cancer treatments for adults encompass a multi-billion-dollar market that attracts investment from big pharmaceutical companies, childhood cancer does not receive this level of funding, despite the fact that cancer is the leading cause of childhood mortality by disease. “We want to cure children with cancer,” said Dr. Jensen.  “We have the knowledge, technologies and insights from decades of research. We’re ready to make our vision a reality.  We just need funding to complete the task, and the gift from Ben Towne Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation will be instrumental in helping us reach our goal even faster.”

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About Seattle Children’s Research Institute

Located in downtown Seattle’s biotech corridor, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is pushing the boundaries of medical research to find cures for pediatric diseases and improve outcomes for children all over the world. Internationally recognized investigators and staff at the research institute are advancing new discoveries in cancer, genetics, immunology, pathology, infectious disease, injury prevention and bioethics, among others. As part of Seattle Children’s Hospital, the research institute brings together leading minds in pediatric research to provide patients with the best care possible. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, which consistently ranks as one of the best pediatric departments in the country. For more information, visit http://www.seattlechildrens.org/research.

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