On Tuesday, April 17, the Emily Whitehead Foundation presented Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)’s Dr. Stephan A. Grupp with a $250,000 research grant. The donation will support the ongoing CAR T-cell therapy research of Dr. Grupp and his team, benefitting CHOP’s Cancer Immunotherapy Frontier Program.
Dr. Grupp is CHOP’s Director of Cancer Immunotherapy Frontier Program and Section Chief of Cellular Therapy and Transplant Program. In 2012, Dr. Grupp and his team treated Emily Whitehead as the first pediatric patient in the CTL019 clinical trial — the CAR T-cell therapy treatment, known now as Kymriah, for relapsed/refractory B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that was approved by the U.S. FDA in August 2017. Emily received her first of three T-cell infusions on April 17, 2012, exactly six years prior to Tuesday’s check presentation.
“It made us very proud to return to CHOP on the sixth anniversary of Emily’s first T-cell infusion and present them with a $250,000 donation to help fund more breakthroughs in cancer care,” says Emily Whitehead Foundation co-founder Tom Whitehead. “One of the best decisions we ever made was turning over Emily’s care to Dr. Stephan Grupp and the team at CHOP.”
Tom, Kari and Emily Whitehead were all present at CHOP on Tuesday to deliver the check to Dr. Grupp — complete with a personal note from Emily scribbled on the back. Joining the Whiteheads were a handful of Emily Whitehead Foundation volunteers, whose help with events such as last fall’s inaugural Emily Whitehead Foundation Believe Ball made it possible for the Foundation to pay it forward with such a generous donation.
Also present was T-cell therapy patient Tori Lee and her parents, Chris and Dana Lee. Tori was the tenth patient to be treated in the original CTL019 clinical trial at CHOP and, coincidentally, received her re-engineered T-cells exactly one year to the date after Emily, on April 17, 2013. Tori now celebrates 5 years of remaining cancer free!
Emily’s most recent blood tests, taken Tuesday prior to the check presentation, revealed that the T-cells are still in her system and actively doing their job, with no evidence of leukemia cells detected. Emily’s 6 years cancer free anniversary will be May 10, 2018.
“We are very blessed to have Emily healthy and thriving in life,” says Tom Whitehead. “THANK YOU to everyone who has helped us build up our Foundation. This wouldn’t be possible without such an amazing team!”
This is the second donation to Dr. Grupp and his team on behalf of the Emily Whitehead Foundation. The Whitehead family presented Dr. Grupp with a check for $100,000 in January 2016, which benefitted CHOP’s CAR T-cell therapy clinical trials.