Funding is difficult, even for great projects
“If the Target Pediatric AML (TpAML) project is truly the “highest potential, greatest need” AML-related research project of the Children’s Oncology Group, then why isn’t it funded? Why is it so hard to get something BIG and strategic done in pediatric AML?”
Since AML is considered an “adult” cancer, most funding is directed to research in seniors. Also, pediatric cancer grants are usually small and tightly defined – so there’s little room for a big, outside-the-box discovery project. This results in small, incremental improvements vs. transformational change.
Many foundations like to fund only specific efforts, like local research or clinical trials, and won’t consider projects that fall outside these boundaries. TpAML just “doesn’t fit”.
Pediatric AML research and funding are not highly coordinated. Top researchers have lined up in support of the TpAML project. The challenge, now, is to align research supporters behind this work.
Reasons why funding is challenging for TpAML:
AML is most commonly diagnosed in older adults (avg. age 67). Most AML patients are seniors. So, that’s where most research and funding are focused.
An ongoing misconception that AML is similar across all ages because it looks the same under a microscope (similar morphology). However, we know that AML (the genetics, drivers, targets) differ significantly based on a patient’s age.
Existing grants structures are inadequate and/or unavailable to fund large-scale, strategic projects (regardless of potential benefit). Most grants are designed to fund small, incremental research projects or young investigators. TpAML does not fit typical, fixed grant categories. Many foundations are interested in funding clinical trials vs. upstream, discovery-focused, strategic research – even if that research might spawn multiple high-potential trials.
No good mechanism exists for communicating/coordinating research priorities in pediatric AML to those who fund research. Foundations and funders have little visibility into research priorities unless they proactively seek it out. They also tend to fund local research or research tied to grant applications they receive. TpAML does not fit most available grant categories and is a national, not local, effort.
No good mechanism exists for supporters who care about pediatric AML research to communicate, coordinate and collaborate.
High profile research/funding initiatives you hear about in the news are unlikely to fund pediatric AML research in any impactful way (especially when funds are spread across many cancers, ages, activities, and research teams).
And, the BIGGEST REASON OF ALL…
TpAML is a BIG project – an $8.7 million effort. While the price tag is significant, so is the potential impact. TpAML has the potential to fundamentally change how AML is diagnosed, monitored and treated for young patients – by maximizing and speeding access to personalized, precision medicine.
TpAML volunteers and advocates are working hard to overcome these challenges by educating funders (of all sizes) of blood and pediatric cancer research – encouraging them to consider speeding a large-scope, high-potential, “outside the box” research project that can fundamentally change the treatment paradigm for pediatric AML.