CURE got its start back in 1975, thanks to Emory University’s first pediatric oncologist, Dr. Abdel Ragab. He saw the need for a pediatric oncology research program as well as the need for support programs for families facing childhood cancer. Of course, he also saw a lack of funding. His solution? Organize a group of parents to form CURE Childhood Cancer and start raising money.
Right out of the gates, CURE began raising funds for a new equipment, including a special microscope, used to diagnose different types of childhood leukemia. In 1978, we were able to contribute $20,000 toward that equipment. Soon after, we began providing support for the training of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology fellows during their research rotations.
During those early years, the childhood cancer research lab was located at Grady Hospital. But most of Dr. Ragab’s patients were being treated at Emory Clinic. So, in 1981, we provided a significant donation to establish a research lab on the Emory campus. Over the years, that lab grew from a temporary facility, to a new outpatient clinic (in 1987) to a fully equipped Childhood Cancer Research lab in 1989. This lab, the first of its kind at Emory, not only represented a huge step forward in providing an up-to-date facility with almost 3,500 sq. feet of space devoted to research in childhood cancer. It represented years of hard work, raising over a million dollars to bring the lab to life. Under Dr. Ragab’s leadership and with CURE’s backing, the childhood cancer research program at Emory continued to grow and soon became one of the largest pediatric oncology programs in the country.
CURE soon made another great contribution to the treatment of childhood cancer – this time, in the legal arena. While Callaway Thrash, an early patient of Dr Ragab and the son of one of the first presidents of CURE, was being treated for leukemia, he was unable to obtain insurance coverage for an experimental drug. After Callaway’s death from leukemia, his father and CURE successfully lobbied the Georgia legislature in support of a bill that would mandate Georgia insurers to support experimental therapies for childhood cancer. The passage of this act, named Callaway’s Law in his memory, was a great advance in support of pediatric cancer clinical trials.
As a result of research funded by CURE, several new therapies and drugs continue to be tested at Emory, the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and other prominent institutions nationwide. Our funding supports collaborations such as that between Emory and the National Cancer Institute. This partnership has led to the testing of a new drug targeted at pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) with very promising results. With our backing and support, programs like this will continue to make headway in the battle against childhood cancer. Ultimately, leading the way to the cure.