Emily Whitehead Foundation Establishes Nicole Gularte Fight for Cures Embassador Award for Young Researchers
The Emily Whitehead Foundation is proud to announce the establishment of the Nicole Gularte Fight for Cures Embassador Award, a research grant created to recognize and support the work of young researchers in the field of cellular-based pediatric cancer treatments.
Honoring Nicole Gularte
In October 2010, Nicole Gularte was diagnosed with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Over a course of nearly ten years that followed this diagnosis, Nicole endured eight relapses and participated in several clinical trials — including being among the first patients to be treated with CAR T-cell therapy in the initial groundbreaking clinical trial at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn).
Along the way, Nicole learned about Emily Whitehead’s story and in 2016 she reached out to Tom Whitehead to tell him that Emily was her hero. At the time, Nicole had just experienced her sixth relapse, and the presence of cancer in her spinal fluid (CNS) made her ineligible for the CAR T-cell therapy trial at Penn. She was out of options, had been sent home on hospice, and had begun making arrangements for her own funeral, but still believed this CAR-T treatment would be the one that worked for her.
After seeking guidance from Tom, Nicole decided keep faith in her fight and have her spinal fluid tested again. Miraculously, the CNS results came back clear, and the Whitehead family proceeded to help Nicole travel from California, where she had been in treatment at Stanford Cancer Center, to Philadelphia to participate in the clinical trial at Penn.
“Emily Whitehead was Nicole's hero ever since she first saw Emily's video in August 2014. Nicole was on a path of intense research of CAR-T immunotherapy, and she began her mission to advocate and educate,” says Nicole’s mother, Karen Andres. “She was passionate about the Emily Whitehead Foundation and so grateful for not only what they did for her, but because of their dedication to helping families facing a diagnosis of pediatric cancer.”
Nicole was declared cancer free 28 days following her CAR-T infusions in 2016. In the time that followed, she became a great friend, patient advocate, and keynote speaker, and often traveled with the Emily Whitehead Foundation to inspire others with her story and her mantra to “fight for cures.”
Nicole was especially passionate about advocating for children fighting cancer and was adamant in her belief that no child should have to experience the kinds of side effects from standard treatments that she had suffered through in her adulthood.
In 2018 Nicole’s cancer returned. She participated in two more clinical trials which ultimately didn’t work. Her remaining option was narrowed down to a bone marrow transplant, but she was unable to achieve remission. Nicole passed away on April 24, 2020.
“Nicole is one of the most courageous people we have ever met and knowing her has made us better people,” says Tom and Kari Whitehead, Founders of the Emily Whitehead Foundation. “She would say that even if she couldn’t get better, she hoped what she went through and that her participation in several clinical trials would help more children survive in the future. We are very fortunate to have known her and wanted to honor her because she was so passionate about raising awareness for childhood cancer and cancer research.”
Fight for Cures Embassador Award
The Embassador Awards, presented at the Emily Whitehead Foundation Believe Ball, honor pioneers, change-makers, innovators, and trailblazers in the field of pediatric cancer immunotherapy.
The Nicole Gularte Fight for Cures Embassador Award will be presented to a young researcher who shares Nicole’s fearless determination to “fight for cures”. The award recipient will receive a research grant totaling $50,000 — comprised of $25,000 from the Emily Whitehead Foundation and $25,000 generously contributed by Cytiva, a global life sciences leader dedicated to advancing and accelerating therapeutics.
"Cytiva is proud to sponsor the 'Fight for Cures Embassador Award' in memory of Nicole Gularte. The grant will help advance and accelerate life-saving oncology research," Cytiva shares in a statement provided by Catarina Flyborg, Vice President Cell and Gene Therapy.
“We are so grateful and honored to collaborate with Cytiva on this research grant which we hope will contribute to the next breakthrough for childhood cancer,” adds the Whiteheads.
Eligible candidates will be selected by a committee made up of Nicole’s peers, family, and experts in the field of immunotherapy. The application can be found online here and will be open to applicants through July 16, 2021. [Edit: Deadline extended to July 26, 2021]. The award recipient will be announced at the 2021 Emily Whitehead Foundation Believe Ball, taking place as a virtual experience on Thursday, September 16, 2021.
“We want to thank the Emily Whitehead Foundation and everyone else that is involved in making this happen,” says Nicole’s mother. “This is an incomparable tribute to honor Nicole and her family is most appreciative of this recognition to her.”
Nicole’s sister-in-law, Suzi, adds: “Nicole was the girl who never gave up. She followed Emily's path to conquer cancer and inspired many others to also fight the fight. Nicole's legacy will live on through the generosity of this award and will allow her journey of hope and healing to continue.”
It is the hope of the Emily Whitehead Foundation that the establishment of this award will inspire a generation of researchers to exemplify Nicole’s fighting spirit and not be afraid to take chances along the path to achieving new breakthroughs in cancer research.
To learn more about Nicole, we encourage you to visit the personal blog through which she chronicled her journey to CAR-T.
To make a donation toward the Emily Whitehead Foundation's contribution to this award, please specify so in the comments section of our online donation form.
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