Childhood Cancer Researchers Give Thanks to Alex Mandarino Foundation

During this week of giving and Thanksgiving, a couple of major researchers engaged in finding a cure for the devastating childhood cancer disease known as neuroblastoma, are sharing their gratitude for the St. Joseph-based Alex Mandarino Foundation for donations totaling $60,000 this fall.

The foundation recently presented Dr. Mary Beth Madonna, who works at Chicago Rush Hospital with a $30,000 donation. Dr. Madonna also runs a laboratory that specializes in neuroblastoma research.

Additionally, they provided $30,000 to Dr. Andre Bachmann, PhD, a Professor of Pediatrics and Human Development at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine. He is the Associate Chair for the Research Department of Pediatrics and Human Development. He, too, has a concentration on neuroblastoma research.

Tony Mandarino says, “Both labs are staffed with incredibly bright minds that have a sincere passion to bring an end to childhood cancer. As you know, the main goal of our foundation is to fund promising doctors, labs and trials as the bulk of funding for pediatric cancer research comes through little grassroot foundations like ourselves. Unfortunately, the brightest minds in this field are left to rely almost solely on donations as the funds they get from the government and big pharma are very little.”

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The two are extremely grateful for the research donations from the Mandarino family. Dr. Bachmann says, “My research team and I have dedicated our careers to finding better medicines for children with pediatric cancer. One major focus is neuroblastoma. We are truly honored to have received our second gift from the Alex Mandarino Foundation in 2019. We greatly value the loyalty and trust the foundation and its donors have in us and our research.”

Dr. Madonna says, “I am a pediatric surgeon by training but also am the principal investigator of a basic science lab studying drug resistance in rare childhood cancers. Specifically our main focus is neuroblastoma.” She adds, “I became interested in this research after spending time in a lab during my training. In addition when I first started my practice in pediatric surgery I treated two toddlers with neuroblastoma and one succumbed to the disease. As a surgeon, to cut is to cure, but that is not the case with many neuroblastoma patients. It made me want to find a way to prevent resistance and relapse in these children so another parent doesn’t have to suffer like those parents or like the Mandarinos suffered.”

Both researchers are relentless in their drive. Dr. Bachmann notes, “We work tirelessly towards finding new and more effective medicines that help neuroblastoma and other pediatric cancer patients,” and adds, “While neuroblastoma remains a clinical challenge, there have been significant recent advances in the field of pediatric oncology towards the identification of new and safer forms of cancer therapy that will benefit children with neuroblastoma and other forms of childhood cancer.”

The Doctor concludes, “It is a privilege to personally know the Mandarino family and we thank them and all the donors for their contributions. Donor support is absolutely essential for us to pursue cutting-edge research and move better medicines to the patients in the clinic, especially in a current challenging funding environment.”

Dr. Madonna says she practiced at Children’s Memorial for many years and left about a year and a half ago because they wanted to shut down her research lab, adding, “I am very committed to continuing this research. Rush University Medical Center, especially the Department of Surgery is thankfully committed to the success of my lab.”

Dr. Madonna also admits, “I couldn’t keep the work going without the help of donations like the Mandarinos. Federal funding for childhood cancers is less than 5-percent of total cancer funding. Their donation (the Mandarino Foundation’s) helps support my research staff as well as for the supplies to keep us doing experiments. None of any of the funding I receive goes to supporting my salary in any way. I basically volunteer my time for the lab because I am so passionate about the work.”

Tony Mandarino wants all donors to the Foundation to know that their donated money to the Alex Mandarino Foundation goes to incredibly worthy causes.

The Alex Mandarino Foundation was founded in 2013 by Tony & Katie Mandarino to honor the courage and strength of their son, Alex who succumbed to neuroblastoma at the age of 5. It is a non-profit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity. Its goal is to help save the lives of children with cancer.

Most pediatric cancer treatments have not significantly improved in the past 20 years. Without funding, progress cannot be made to find a cure for childhood cancers or improve the effectiveness of their treatments. For the most vulnerable family members, that is unacceptable. That is why The Alex Mandarino Foundation exists.

You can learn more and donate to the cause yourself by clicking the link below: