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The Emily Whitehead Foundation Launches to Support Pediatric Cancer Research
The Emily Whitehead Foundation is a non-profit organization committed to raising funds to invest in the most promising pediatric cancer research. The foundation also hopes to provide support to pediatric cancer patients and will promote awareness of the disease through education and sharing inspiring stories.
Philipsburg, Pa (Jan. 27, 2015) – Nearly three years after being the first child in the world to receive an experimental T-cell therapy at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to save her from a life-threatening cancer, nine-year-old Emily Whitehead and her parents launch the Emily Whitehead Foundation.
The non-profit foundation aims to direct funding to medical researchers to develop better treatment options and ultimately a cure for pediatric cancer. The foundation will promote pediatric cancer awareness and hopes to provide support for families facing the disease.
Tom Whitehead, father of Emily, and President / Co-Founder of the foundation, said, “We want Emily to be able to tell her grandkids that she was the beginning of the end of cancer. Emily does not want to lose any more friends to cancer. We believe in a cure and if we work together we can put an end to this terrible disease.”
Emily was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at age five in May 2010 and relapsed twice. After the second relapse, the Whiteheads were told they were out of options to treat her cancer. Not willing to give up, the Whiteheads pursued a radical new treatment called T-cell therapy at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
Emily was the first child enrolled in the phase I clinical trial (known as CART-19 or CTL019) in April 2012. Her T-cells (a type of white blood cell) were collected from her body, and then, in a process using a disabled form of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the T-cells were genetically reprogrammed to recognize and attack cancer cells. When the modified T-cells were put back into Emily she became very sick and spent several weeks in the intensive care unit on a ventilator. At one point her doctor said she had only a 1 in 1000 chance of surviving the night. Not only did Emily survive that night, but a few weeks later her family was given the miracle they had prayed for: the T-cell therapy worked. Doctors couldn’t detect a single cancer cell in her body. Today, Emily is nearing three years cancer free.
Emily’s story gained worldwide attention and the trial has continued to achieve unprecedented results and provide hope to many other families facing the disease. Emily and her parents, Tom and Kari, now travel to speak at events and conferences to raise awareness and share their inspirational journey.
To learn more about the foundation, donate, and find out about upcoming events and ways to get involved, visit the website: www.emilywhiteheadfoundation.org.