Childhood Cancer Breakthrough Helped By Local Fundraising

December 29, 2017 06:07 PM

(ABC 6 News) – A breakthrough in the research of a rare childhood cancer was aided by years of fundraising from across the area.

Earlier this year, researchers at The Hormel Institute in Austin published their findings on the role of a specific gene in the development of nephroblastoma, also called Wilms’ tumor. The findings were included in the December 7 issue of research journal Carcinogenesis.


The researchers found that there are two different versions of the gene—a shorter one that helps keep cancer in check and a longer one that can help cancer cells grow.

“Our finding is very important because it contributes to a better understanding of the WT1 function in the cancer cell field,” research associate Joohyun Ryu said.

Around 500 new diagnoses of Wilms’ tumor, a rare kidney cancer primarily affecting children under 6, occur each year in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society.

Ryu said federal funding for Wilms’ tumor research can be hard to come by, making local contributions that much more important.

“Most scientists are focused on the higher-incidences (types of) cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, but I think, we think some scientists have to do this kind of cancer to support some of the people,” he said.

In the past 20 years, the institute has received more than $500,000 from the annual “Karl’s Tourney” golf tournament, named after Karl Potash, who died from the disease in 1997.

Potash’s family started the tournament the year after his death, which has since raised more than $1 million for research and treatment.

“They’ve discovered something that no one else has about Wilms’ tumor, so it’s really exciting to be a part of that,” Potash’s father Kurt, a well-known Austin dentist, said.

The fact that it's right in our backyards is a bonus, he said.

"It's gotten to the point where it's very fun for us to remember Karl in this way (because of the tournament)," Kurt said. "And then to see fruits come from it is even more gratifying."



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