Sarcomas in children are rare cancers of bones, muscles and similar tissues. These tumours can recur, become treatment resistant and can spread throughout the body even by the time of initial diagnosis. Immunotherapies, which direct a patient’s immune system to attack their cancer, can be curative in childhood leukaemia but are untested against sarcomas.
When Australian Diamond and Giants Netballer, Amy Parmenter, founded The Tie Dye Project and then partnered with 16-year-old two-time osteosarcoma survivor and student, Molly Croft, they were determined to fund pioneering research into sarcoma, a cancer of the bone joints that mainly affects adolescents and young adults. A discussion with Classic Wallaby and CEO of The Kids’ Cancer Project, Owen Finegan, has seen millions of dollars directed towards a new clinical trial for sarcoma patients.
Along with other research projects, The Tie Dye Project (with matched support from The Kids’ Cancer Project) have supported funding CAR T Cell Therapy, an immunotherapy designed to treat young sarcoma patients in a kinder and more effective way. Immunotherapy with genetically modified immune T cells expressing chimeric antigen receptors (CAR T-cells) has revolutionised cancer treatment.
The bench to bedside sarcoma research developed by Associate Professor Geoff McCowage and Dr Kavitha Gowrishankar was focused on improving treatment and survival rates for young sarcoma patients. Current sarcoma treatment depends on surgery to remove tumours as well as high doses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
A joint funding commitment for two years of $231,000 has led to A/Pr McCowage and Dr Gowrishankar being able to successfully leverage the communities’ fundraising by being awarded a further $2,290,652 towards a clinical trial that will test the administration of a new immunotherapy to children with incurable sarcomas. Hopefully this will be the first step in developing effective curative treatments to offer when standard therapies have failed. have failed.
In under 24 months, Amy and Molly, these two driven young women have achieved their goal of ‘socking it to sarcoma’ by raising over $200,000 to support pioneering Aussie research by selling thousands of colourful tie-dyed socks, hats, t-shirts and netball bibs.
When Molly was undergoing her cancer treatment at the end of each day she would ‘look for a rainbow’ and a reason to be grateful. Little did she know that with the help of friends and the broader community, the Tie Dye Project would be funding pioneering Australian research.
“It’s incredible that our crazy colourful little tie dye project is really helping to make a difference in the sarcoma space. It really is true that from little things big things grow."
With The Kids’ Cancer Project generously matching The Tie Dye Project funding, the CAR T Cell Therapy project can now fund a full-time senior research assistant, purchase the necessary equipment and build in-house expertise that is taking this ‘bench to bedside’ research to fruition.
Owen Finegan is impressed by what The Tie Dye Project has achieved.
“It is incredible that a project lead by two young inspirational women with a passion for making a difference in the sarcoma space has played such a crucial part in raising significant long-term funding for this project. With the support of The Tie Dye community, The Kids’ Cancer Project and the Cooper Rice-Brading Foundation, the funds raised have the potential to change the realities faced by those diagnosed with sarcoma in the future.”
Associate Professor McCowage says:
“With the incredibly generous and committed help of the people like you more kids are surviving cancer than ever before. It’s truly heartening to know that the community are standing alongside scientists like us as we strive to save more kids from cancer."
Amy and Molly are thrilled to be raising awareness and funding research so future sarcoma patients may receive help from improved treatments.
Molly still cannot believe how those rainbows and her mindset has raised so much money for vital sarcoma research. She says:
“For this I am truly grateful.”