UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals Team Up with Mayors, Giants, A’s

San Francisco City Hall was illuminated with gold lights to acknowledge children with pediatric cancer. Photo by Mateo Carr/UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals are bringing together the cities of San Francisco and Oakland this week, as well as each city’s baseball team, to raise awareness of pediatric cancer and promote further research funding nationwide.

On Friday, Sept. 16, 2016, the city halls of San Francisco and Oakland will join iconic landmarks, such as Times Square in New York and Blarney Castle in Ireland, in going gold to honor children with pediatric cancer.

At sundown on Friday, San Francisco City Hall will be lit up in gold, the color representing National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, which runs through September. Oakland City Hall will mark the day with a gold banner to acknowledge children throughout the Bay Area and beyond with pediatric cancer.

“I applaud the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, and their baseball clubs, for teaming up to raise awareness of pediatric cancer,” said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo. “Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is one of the worst scenarios that a parent could ever imagine, but less than 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute’s budget is directly spent on childhood cancer research.

“That’s why I continue to push for additional funding and for the passage of the Childhood Cancer STAR Act in Congress,” she said. “With over 250 cosponsors, this groundbreaking bipartisan and bicameral legislation will promote research opportunities, improve the lives of survivors and ensure patients have access to new potentially lifesaving therapies.”

Many More Years Lost When Child Succumbs to Cancer

“Childhood cancer cuts short too many young lives and too many families suffer,” said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee. “San Francisco is proud to join the call for more funding and more research in this fight to save young lives.”

An estimated 15,780 children and adolescents under 19 were diagnosed with pediatric cancer in 2014, according to the National Cancer Institute, making cancer the nation’s leading cause of disease-related death in children past infancy. The average age of cancer diagnosis in children is 6 years, vs. 67 in adults, and represents an average loss of 71 years of life when a child dies, according to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to raising funds for pediatric cancer research.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said that the city welcomes the opportunity to bring childhood cancer to the public’s attention. “We know that adult behavior can influence one’s chance of getting cancer, but there is nothing a child can do to minimize their risk of getting pediatric cancer,” Mayor Schaaf said.

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in San Francisco and Oakland are the top-ranked pediatric oncology hospitals in Northern California, according to U.S. News and World Report, and are among the nation’s leaders in pediatric cancer research. In raising awareness of pediatric cancer, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals’ oncologists have underscored the need for greater funding for pediatric cancer research overall, to help reduce the toll of the disease on the nation’s youngest patients.

Survival Rates Stagnant in Some Pediatric Cancers

“We’ve made tremendous progress in treating pediatric cancers like acute lymphoblastic leukemia, one of the most common pediatric cancers,” said Bertram Lubin, MD, president and chief executive officer of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, and a pediatric oncologist. “But there are less common pediatric cancers with survival rates that have stagnated. Research at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals reflects our commitment to improve both quantity and quality of life for all pediatric oncology patients.”

That includes providing specialized care for teenagers and young adults diagnosed with cancer, given their unique needs and vulnerabilities, as well as finding more precise cancer treatments for all pediatric patients, according to Mignon Loh, MD, chief of hematology oncology at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.

“Among the initiatives that give us optimism is genome sequencing,” said Loh, who is also the Benioff UCSF Chair of Children’s Health. “This enables us to find the best-suited drugs that will destroy a child’s tumor. It is a personalized treatment that matches the patient with all available drugs that are most likely to help them.”

Adding to the two cities’ efforts are the San Francisco Giants, who are donating tickets to patients at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco for their pediatric cancer awareness game on Sept. 17. Giants’ catcher Buster Posey and ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale visited the hospital on Sept.13 to talk with the children and sign autographs. The Oakland A’s have donated a percentage of ticket sales from their Sept. 2 game to a psychology oncology program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. The team also invited young cancer patients to participate in their pre-game festivities on the field.

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