Kay Koehler, CureSearch CEO
We continue to highlight our team of superheroes for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, including Kay Koehler – CureSearch CEO. In February of 2018, CureSearch’s Board of Directors announced that Kay would take the leadership reins as CEO. As the former Chief Develoment Officer, Kay had been a critical part of the CureSearch executive team, responsible for leadership of CureSearch’s donor engagement, fundraising, marketing and communications efforts, effecting sweeping changes to position the organization for success.
We talked with Kay about her passion for CureSearch’s mission to end children’s cancer and how CureSearch is working differently to accelerate children’s cancer cures. Read what she had to say:
How does CureSearch work with partners, families and local communities to accelerate childhood cancer research and cures?
The importance of these relationships cannot be stressed enough; our partnerships and passionate supporters are crucial to driving collaborations, research and resources that are accelerating less-toxic treatments and children’s cancer cures. From a single volunteer at a Superheroes Unite! event to a pharmaceutical industry partner, we are creating a mission-critical ecosystem of supporters with a singular goal in mind – getting more and less-toxic therapies to the children who need them most, faster.
We’re also convening the necessary players – best in class scientists, academicians, industry leaders, financial experts and economists – to hold open and lively discussions focused on the current obstacles to developing new therapies for children. We’re doing this by bringing together the right people to expedite novel therapies out of the lab and into the clinic and marketplace to the children, parents and families that are counting on us. The CureSearch research strategy and the global community has rallied its support around these complex issues.
Which programs or resources that we offer at CureSearch make you the most proud?
CureSearch has a vast library of resources for patients and families looking for more information about children’s cancer cures, from an app that helps parents track medications to a video explaining immunotherapy treatments to kids. It’s important to us as an organization to not only raise funds for research, but to ensure that we are helping families facing an often devastating child cancer diagnosis by offering knowledge in areas such as treatment options or clinical trials while also providing emotional support. That is why I’m especially proud of our Superheroes Unite! and Ultimate Hike events. Both campaigns bring together families and communities to support kids with cancer and honor survivors and forever heroes – those who sadly lost their lives.
What makes CureSearch different from other similar organizations?
Drug development for children’s cancer is a complicated process that no one organization can manage alone. We cannot accept the current rate of drug development, with only four new therapies developed specifically for children in the last twenty years. We owe our children more.
CureSearch is hyper-focused on convening scientific and industry relationships so that leaders in their fields are working side-by-side to develop new drugs for children’s cancer. Today, so much of that happens in a vacuum, creating hurdles that slow down and even suppress progress. We have uniquely stepped up with innovative collaborations to fill the existing gaps in drug development for children’s cancer treatments. The response from science and industry has been overwhelmingly supportive.
We are committed to creating a cohesive pediatric cancer ecosystem, nationally and internationally, working collaboratively to save kids NOW and protect their futures. That is the hidden secret of survival statistics; up to 60% of childhood cancer survivors will have lifelong and debilitating side effects from their treatments, including recurring cancers and heart failure as young adults. I can’t imagine being the parent of an adorable four-year-old child that endures two to three years of cancer treatment and survives, only to be diagnosed with a terminal cancer the very summer we are preparing them to head off to college. It’s devastating and unacceptable.
That’s why we are passionate about funding top-tier and high potential pediatric cancer research projects through our comprehensive basic, translational and clinical trial research strategy – including the nearly $1.5 million that we funded through our Catapult and Young Investigator Awards this year. These research grants are vetted through the most rigorous process in the industry, ensuring that every dollar raised is having the greatest impact.
Why is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM) important to you?
It highlights the urgency of our mission to cure children’s cancer. Every day, 43 children are diagnosed with cancer. Across a spectrum of over 100 different types and subtypes of childhood cancers, only four cancer treatments have been developed and approved for children in the last two decades. Through CCAM, we can spread awareness of this critical need to bring everyone together to help each child live the long, healthy life he or she deserves.
We’ve made amazing strides in science in the last five years alone. But with only 4% of government cancer funding going to children’s cancer research, it’s up to us to fill the large need. Groundbreaking research that could hold the key to a child’s life often goes unfunded because financial resources are not available. This is why we don’t hesitate to ask for donations. We steward every dollar so that each person who supports us is truly making an impact on a child’s battle and knows that they are funding the most innovative science to drive results quickly – because our kids can’t wait.
Whether through volunteering, fundraising or donating today – you too can be part of the team that is working to end children’s cancer. This CCAM, be part of our team of superheroes and make a difference for every child fighting cancer.
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