ANN ARBOR, MI – While Chad Carr’s name has been synonymous with pediatric brain cancer since his battle with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) ended in 2015, it will now be synonymous with fighting the disease with the establishment of the Chad Carr Pediatric Brain Tumor Center at the University of Michigan.
Multiple donors have committed $30 million to establish the center as part of an initiative to advance research and treatment for children with brain cancer.
Chad Carr, the grandson of former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr and All-American Tom Curtis, died in November 2015, 14 months after being diagnosed with DIPG. He was 5 years old.
The joint announcement by Michigan Medicine and The ChadTough Foundation was announced at the foundation’s second Champions for Change Gala on Saturday, May 19.
“We are grateful for the generous gifts allowing us to honor Chad through transformational research that will help other children defeat this terrible disease. This is a monumental milestone in our mission to conquer pediatric brain cancer,” said Dr. Valerie Opipari, a pediatric oncologist and chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. “U-M is positioned to lead the search for cures and committed to pushing the limits of what we know about pediatric brain tumors in order to advance science and revolutionize treatment.”
Chad Carr’s mother, Tammi Carr, said the establishment of the center will help carry on her son’s legacy and fighting spirit, with the hope of finding a cure.
“We want to see a day when no family will ever have to suffer this kind of heartbreak,” Tammi Carr said. “We believe that the work happening in Chad’s name at the UM Chad Carr Pediatric Brain Tumor Center will change the future for other children. This is Chad’s legacy.”
Thousands of supporters from across the country came together to raise the $30 million needed to establish and name the center in Chad Carr’s memory.
UM Regent Ron Weiser and Eileen Weiser made lead gifts, along with donations from Wayne and Shelly Jones and the Jones Family Foundation; the Glick family and Alro Steel; The ChadTough Foundation; William and Sharon Stein; Frank and Barbara Westover and David and Joan Evans.
DIPG is one of the most dreaded forms of pediatric cancer, stemming from the region of the brain that controls vital functions such as breathing and heart rate. Research proves that chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, which together have been the foundation for cancer therapy advances during the last two decades, are not effective against DIPG.
While the field of pediatric cancer research has seen a number of breakthroughs in recent years, DIPG has seen little progress. More than 90 percent of children diagnosed with DIPG die within 18 months of diagnosis.
UM’s Chad Carr Pediatric Brain Tumor Center will unite experts from multiple specialties, including pediatrics, radiology and neurosurgery, radiation oncology, genetics and pathology as well as engineering and public health to accelerate research on DIPG and other pediatric brain tumors.
“The Chad Carr Pediatric Brain Tumor Center will leverage the breadth and depth of expertise across the university to fuel innovative research and deliver new therapies for children with brain cancer,” University of Michigan Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs Marschall Runge said. “This incredible collaboration brings together a renowned team of doctors and scientists at Michigan who will pool knowledge and break traditional boundaries to drive advances in research and treatment for pediatric brain cancer.”
Chad Carr’s impact on pediatric brain cancer research has been realized in many ways since his fight with DIPG became a national story in 2014.
C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital announced Thursday, Sept. 14, that Chad’s donated tumor tissue is offering researchers new insight into the genetic mutations that drive DIPG to grow and progress.
The research, supported by Michigan Medicine’s Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Initiative, establishes that a mutation in a gene known as PTEN – not previously seen as a major DIPG driver – plays an early and important role in DIPG’s fatal course. The project was a result of the collaboration of DIPG research among pediatrics, neurosurgery and pathology at Michigan Medicine.
The funds raised are part of a larger $51.5 million campaign to support fundamental scientific research programs on pediatric brain tumors, including DIPG, and develop research strengths and infrastructure to support clinical trials. Philanthropic partnerships are essential for U-M to significantly expand clinical and research capacity in these areas. Only 4 percent of federal funding for cancer research is allocated to pediatric cancers. Brain cancers in children — considered rare by medical statistics — receive just a sliver of that allocation.
Learn more about UM’s Chad Carr Pediatric Brain Tumor Center online. To support pediatric brain tumor research at UM, visit its website.