It’s hard to believe it was five years ago this month that Elizabeth Minter was diagnosed with gliomatosis cerebri — an earth-shattering diagnosis for her, her family, and all the many people who loved her. That diagnosis started a 17-month journey, which this remarkable young woman traveled with grace, optimism, and hope — always hope.
Five years later, it’s her hope that lives on. Elizabeth’s legacy is Elizabeth’s Hope, but it’s also the Children’s Brain Tumor Project, which grew out of what she and her family started. More than 3,400 people have made donations to the Children’s Brain Tumor Project — and many of them found us through Elizabeth’s Hope. Many more (too many) found us when their own family, or someone in their community, heard the same terrible news that the Minters received in December 2010. The generosity of these thousands of people have sustained our work and allowed for significant growth and accomplishment in the lab. We are so deeply grateful for your confidence, and your support.
I know five years can feel like a lifetime when measured in the absence of a child, but in scientific terms it’s the blink of an eye. Laboratory research proceeds at a deliberate pace and typically takes decades to unfold. This project is very different. In these last five years we have made an unimaginable amount of progress and now have a thriving lab pursuing multiple lines of inquiry across a broad range of pediatric tumors. We are seeing in the lab what we suspected from the beginning: that each cancer is different, that we must focus on getting as much information as we can about every individual tumor, and that we will someday be able to tailor the right treatment to a specific patient.
We are tremendously fortunate to have the new Weill Cornell Precision Medicine Institute as our partners in this effort. In 2012 Elizabeth’s tumor was the first GC sample ever sequenced, and we’ve learned a tremendous amount from it. Thanks to the Precision Medicine Institute, and the family power of Elizabeth’s Hope and the Children’s Brain Tumor Project, we are now able to sequence EVERY pediatric brain tumor treated at Weill Cornell. This gives us access to an unprecedented amount of information, and we are working hard every day to interpret it, understand it, and match new treatment options to different mutations.
We are now growing GC and DIPG tumor cells in the lab. Having these cell lines available is ground-breaking — we can watch mutations as they happen, test drugs and drug combinations against them, and understand more every day about how these cancers progress.
When I look through the microscope at these samples I see deadly tumor cells, but I also see hope — I share the hope Elizabeth had, and I am committed to making that hope a reality. We are working with other labs across the country and around the world to find answers, and I know we will.
Thank you for making this possible, and for sustaining the hope Elizabeth had. My gratitude to the Minter family, and to the amazing community that rose as one to support them, knows no bounds. I wish them — and all of you — all the best during this holiday season, and I give you my thanks for your continued generosity.
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c/o Ana Ignat, Department Administrator
Weill Cornell Pediatric Brain & Spine Center
525 East 68th Street, Box 99
New York, NY 10065
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