VANCOUVER - B.C. is committing $2 million in one-time funding to the Michael Cuccione Foundation to support childhood cancer research and treatment, Health Minister Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid announced today.
The foundation will direct the money to the Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Research Program at the Child & Family Research Institute at BC Children's Hospital. The research program focuses on better understanding childhood cancers and seeking new therapies with lower side-effects for young patients.
"Thanks to advances in research and new treatments, children with cancer now have a better chance of living a longer life than ever before," said MacDiarmid who will attend the foundation's 17th annual fundraiser gala this evening. "We are proud to support the Michael Cuccione Foundation's efforts to prevent and treat childhood cancers and the foundation's work is a testament to the life of Michael Cuccione who, despite his young age, was a dedicated crusader in the fight against cancer."
Founded in 1997, the Michael Cuccione Foundation raises funds for childhood cancer research. The foundation also offers emotional support to cancer patients and their families and conducts motivational speaking engagements throughout Canada and around the world. The foundation was established by Michael Cuccione who was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of nine. A singer, songwriter, dancer, actor and motivational speaker, Michael used his own experiences with cancer to challenge and inspire others to make a difference. Michael overcame cancer, but died in 2001 at age 16 from respiratory failure related to his cancer treatments.
"While much research is done into adult cancers, the research undertaken at the Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Research Program is helping us to discover the underlying causes of childhood malignancies," said Gloria Cuccione, Michael's mother and foundation executive director. "This funding will help us ensure that we can continue to fund research that will move us closer to Michael's dream of finding a cure for cancer."
The Child & Family Research Institute is committed to world-class research spanning a wide range of children's and women's health concerns. It is the only centre for childhood cancer research in British Columbia and is the largest research institute of its kind in Western Canada.
"In the last 20 years alone, we have seen vast improvements in the survival rates for childhood cancers, but over 20 per cent of children still succumb to the disease," said Dr. Kirk Schultz, head of the childhood cancer and blood research program at the Child & Family Research Institute and pediatric oncologist at BC Children's Hospital. "This funding and the work of the Michael Cuccione Foundation recognize that despite these successes, a continued commitment to childhood cancer research is needed to further improve survival rates and to develop child-specific treatments with reduced side-effects for patients."
Every year in B.C., one child in 8,000 will develop cancer and there are about 130 new cases diagnosed in children under age 17. Fortunately, children with cancer have a better chance of living a longer life than ever before, and there has been a steady decline in the mortality rate for childhood cancer over the last 20 years.
Government is committed to improving health services delivery for all children and youth in B.C. The Ministry of Health provided the Michael Cuccione Foundation with a $2-million one-time grant in May 2008 to help complete the Michael Cuccione Laboratory for Pediatric Oncology. In April 2008, the B.C. government announced its commitment to redevelop BC Children's and BC Women's Hospitals. Construction of the clinical support building got underway in April 2011 as part of Phase 1 of the hospitals' redevelopment project. The second and third phases of the project will include building a new acute-care hospital and renovations to, and expansion of, BC Women's Hospital.
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