Caroline Symmes was 5 years old when cancer ended her life.
Caroline was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor Disease a month before her fourth birthday. As parents, David & I were frightened, yet encouraged and strengthened by the fact that her type of cancer had an extremely high cure rate. Quickly we learned that it didn’t matter the cure rate, that each cancer or tumor was unique to a child’s body, and that Caroline’s tumor was very aggressive.
During one of Caroline’s many inpatient treatments, we met Dr. Jamie Renbarger making rounds. She was quiet and unassuming, recording notes on her computer while she spoke with Caroline. When she finished, we thanked her for her efforts and I asked what her specialty was, since we had never met. The look in her eyes when she began explaining her theory of the future of children’s cancer research was one we couldn’t forget. Specifically, each child deserves to receive a personalized drug therapy, unique to their body’s ability to tolerate the therapy and to maximize outcomes. This was our introduction to Precision Genomics. And we knew we had to find a way to help.
We started the Caroline Symmes Endowment for Pediatric Cancer Research to raise crucial funds for researchers at Riley Hospital for Children. Less than 5% of the federal government’s total yearly funding for cancer research is dedicated to childhood cancers. And the fact that children’s cancer research is so underfunded is well known in the children’s cancer community. Our Endowment’s incredible donors are making it possible for us to further (or continue to) fund Dr. Renbarger’s team and their research to create better drugs and better outcomes for critically ill children. David and I are extremely grateful and humbled by the donor support we have received over the years.