MEMPHIS, Tenn. (KDVR) — Tickets for the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway have sold out for the year and FOX31 viewers helped raise $2.4 million toward the St. Jude mission, all in this year alone.
In the last 13 years, Denver raised more than $16.6 million for St. Jude with Dream Home Giveaway tickets.
FOX31 took a trip to the St. Jude campus in Memphis, Tennessee, to learn firsthand what that money is funding.
‘No child should die in the dawn of life’
In the heart of the evolving St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital campus, flags represent the makeup of doctors and researchers coming from across the globe to work on founder Danny Thomas’ mission.
“We have a mission from Danny Thomas that no child should die in the dawn of life, and everyone embraces that mission here at St. Jude, every single person,” said Kathryn Roberts, Ph.D.
Saving children’s lives is the mission that brought Roberts, the pathology department’s director of research operations, to Memphis 13 years ago.
“Once you come here, you see how much of an amazing place it is,” Roberts said. “And this is where I wanted to come back and do my research.”
Roberts joined St. Jude in 2010 as a postdoctoral fellow to continue her research interests in hematological malignancies, a key research focus of the hospital.
Roberts specializes in acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL. Her work focuses on understanding the genomic changes that cause leukemia and developing new therapeutic approaches to specifically target these alterations and halt the growth of leukemia cells, all while reducing the effects on normal cells.
“ALL is the most common childhood cancer,” Roberts said. “With all of the research that happened here at St. Jude over the past decades, the improvement in treatments, the survival rate for ALL is now over 90%. So that’s amazing.”
St. Jude cancer research translated around the world
Roberts has been a part of some of the massive discoveries driving the survival rate to 90%.
“We identified an aggressive form of ALL that didn’t respond well to conventional therapy,” Roberts said. “I performed a lot of experimental validation to identify what particular genetic alterations are in those patients. And then we actually identified therapies or treatments that specifically target those genetic alterations, and that has been translated into clinical trials here, not only at St. Jude but also around the country and also around the world.”
Roberts’ work has resulted in the comprehensive genomic profiling of more than 2,500 cases of leukemia in pediatric and adult patients and has launched the development of new clinical trials.
“Honestly, St. Jude is one of the only places, if not the only place, where we could have done that, to have profiled so many cases,” she said. “That’s where your donations are going. It enables us to ask these difficult questions. And when you start asking the really difficult questions, that’s when you really accelerate discovery.”