RINCON — Jenny Wilkins wants more stories to have happy endings. She made that point clear during Thursday’s Rotary Club of Effingham County meeting at The Herald Center.
Wilkins, the special events manager for CURE Childhood Cancer, said it will take lots of money for her goal to be achieved.
“More than 15,000 kids are diagnosed with cancer every year,” she said. “It is the number one disease killer of kids. The only thing that kills more kids than cancer is accidents.
“In spite of the fact of its prevalance of being the number one killer of kids, there is not a lot of money going to research. Less than four percent of federal funding for cancer research goes to kids. The other ninety-six percent goes to adults.”
Wilkins spotlighted the funding difference because children get different types of cancer than adults do and their bodies process medicines differently.
“The large cancer nonprofits give less than one to two pennies on the dollar to research pediatric cancer,” she said.
Wilkins also said that pharmaceutical companies focus the bulk of their efforts on adult cancers.
“The big four that get the most funding are long, colon, breast and prostate,” she said. “Those are super important to fund and we don’t want to take anything away from that funding. We just think it is important to distinguish the between the needs of children and needs of adults.”
Wilkins’ organization, which formed in 1975, is dedicated to conquering childhood cancer through funding targeted research while supporting patients and their families. It has invested more than $25 million in research over the past decade.
“The funding issues lead to problems in the way that we treat kids,” Wilkins said. “In the last fifty years, less than five new drugs have been developed for kids and that is crazy.”
Wilkins and her husband, Tre, lost a young daughter to Medulloblastoma, the most common type of brain cancer in children.
“My daughter Catie was diagnosed in 2003 and we lost her in 2007,” Wilkins said. “The frontline medicine that she got — the newest one was twenty years old. The oldest one was fifty or sixty years old.
“Those medicines are still being used in frontline treatments today.”
Wilkins called the lack of progress “inexcusable.”
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. To learn more about it and CURE, visit curechildhoodcancer.org.