Funding brain tumor research to transform pediatric neuro-oncology and save lives

Wednesday, Aug 27 2014

nick foreman

Joan Slaughter and her husband, Steven Adams, became philanthropists for Dr. Foreman’s work after losing their daughter, Morgan, to a glioblastoma multiforme brain tumor when she was 6 years old. They realized through this experience that pediatric neuro-oncology research was significantly underfunded.

Grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were not targeting brain tumors, which are one of the deadliest cancers and which dramatically impact quality of life for the children who survive. They created the Morgan Adams Foundation to fund pediatric neuro-oncology research, and specifically, to develop Dr. Nick Foreman’s research lab and infrastructure.

“Philanthropy is an imperative. It makes a difference in how children are treated,” says Joan.

In addition to building the neuro-oncology research enterprise at Children’s Hospital Colorado, the Morgan Adams Foundation has invested in great ideas from promising researchers. One of the greatest challenges for early-career investigators is securing initial funding to support their hypotheses; bigger grants usually go to established physician-scientists. The return on investment for a great idea, however, is remarkable.

“New idea generation is the greatest need, and where our philanthropy has been most effective,” Joan says. “We made a $40,000 investment in a young researcher’s work recently, which resulted in a $1.2 million NIH grant.”

Stephanie and Matt Seebaum, who also suffered a momentous personal loss, also support Dr. Foreman’s research. They founded the Tanner Seebaum Foundation in part because they were inspired by the Morgan Adams Foundation, and they were inspired to support Dr. Foreman’s chair by their son’s doctor, Dr. Nick Tschetter.

Stephanie and Matt’s son, Tanner, was diagnosed with a brain tumor called ependymoma before he turned 2 years old. Tanner grew into a giving, positive young man despite the occurrence of three tumors before age 8, and many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. When he learned about a new and incurable tumor on his brain stem at age 15, Tanner continued to pursue his dreams, including becoming a well-respected DJ, until he passed away at age 16 in July 2013.

During this journey, the Seebaum family and their friends and community decided to raise money to support Dr. Foreman and his team in their pursuit of novel treatments for hard-to-treat cancers.

Their efforts, along with those of Children’s Colorado's Dr. Nick Tschetter, whose grandson was successfully treated, helped create the Tanner Seebaum and Zachary Tschetter Chair in Neuro-Oncology, held by Dr. Foreman, and an endowed fund to further research into ependymoma and related tumors.

“We felt it was important to fund research in the type of tumor Tanner had, because there is not yet a cure. We want to give hope for a cure to other kids,” says Stephanie. Their fundraising, and Dr. Foreman’s clinical care and research, continues.

Children's Colorado has the largest neuro-oncology tumor bank in the US, funded by the Morgan Adams Foundation. As home to world-renowned physician-scientists like Dr. Foreman, Children's Colorado is one of the best places to invest resources that can immediately
impact the care brain tumor patients receive.

Dr. Foreman and his team would like to position Children’s Colorado as a national research center in rapid trials for currently incurable or recurrent brain tumors. Such a center does not yet exist, and current efforts are scattered across pediatric research centers. Private philanthropic investment can help fund an infrastructure to match the team’s vision, ambition, and potential. In the meantime, the families behind the Morgan Adams and Tanner Seebaum foundations have become friends and allies of Dr. Foreman and his team.

“It’s really a pleasure to support him,” Matt says.

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