Go with the Flow: Fundraising Effort Leads to New Flow Cytometer Machine to Advance UW Pediatric Cancer Research

Lions MACC

Lions Club members and Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Inc., present a check for $200,000 to UW's pediatric cancer "Dream Team" to help purchase an Attune NxT Flow Cytometer on Feb. 11. 



Thanks to some unexpected help from friends, researchers at the UW Carbone Cancer Center and the American Family Children's Hospital now have a new tool in their arsenal to help children dealing with cancer.


The Lions Clubs International Foundation, along with local Lions Club members and Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Inc. (MACC Fund), recently donated $200,000 to help purchase an Attune NxT Flow Cytometer for the UW's pediatric cancer "Dream Team" of doctors and researchers. Representatives from all groups were on hand for a check presentation and lab tour on Feb. 11.


"The Flow Cytometer is a very important and critical instrument in cancer research that will help us find new cures for kids with cancer," said Mario Otto, MD, PhD, an associate professor of pediatrics at UW-Madison.


Nearly 16,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. While childhood cancer is much more treatable than ever before - about 80% of kids are considered cured after treatment - other forms of the disease remain difficult to treat. In addition, therapies such as chemotherapy and radiation can cause long-term side effects and other health issues for these kids later in life.


That's where immunotherapy comes in, which tries to sharpen or suppress various immune functions to help the body fight cancer by itself, or in conjunction with other therapies. The goal is to be able to cure cancer with less reliance on toxic therapies, so that kids can go on to live long and healthy lives.


UW has long been a pioneer in the field of pediatric immunotherapy research, and having their own flow cytometer will help push the boundaries of what's possible even further.


"If you ask any of the researchers, what is the single most important piece of equipment you need to do work on cancer immunotherapy, it's a flow cytometer," said Ken DeSantes, division chief of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant at UW. "Having our own dedicated flow cytometer is really going to be a tremendous asset to our program."


"The Flow Cytometer is a very important and critical instrument in cancer research that will help us find new cures for kids with cancer." – Dr. Mario Otto


A flow cytometer uses lasers to analyze fluorescently-labeled cells that are suspended in a liquid stream. Cancer researchers can feed tumor samples from mice that have been treated with various immunotherapies into the machine, and see detailed images of a single cell on a screen. The goal is to understand how different types of immunotherapies are influencing the tumor and tumor microenvironment, and how best to create an anti-tumor response.


"There's so many different ways that we can use the information from each flow experiment on the Attune to optimize our future treatments," said Amy Erbe, an associate scientist with the Sondel Research Group. "We can adjust the timing, the dosing, and/or the different combinations of our therapies for the different types of cancers that we're studying."


The instrument was purchased earlier this year, and already is up and running in the pediatric cancer research lab space. A sign above the machine acknowledges the funding partnership that made the purchase possible.


In recent years, the Lions have partnered with the MACC Fund to support and fund efforts to cure childhood cancer. It's the second flow cytometer they've been able to help purchase for cancer researchers in Wisconsin. "This is such a great example of teamwork," said Jon McGlocklin, founder and president of the MACC Fund. "We have learned through this relationship that the Lions step up, big-time."


Lion Jodi Burmester added, "This is changing the world in how we treat kids and adults with cancer forever."


As the pediatric cancer researchers at UW spend more time with the flow cytometer, they will no doubt make new and exciting discoveries that will lead to the treatments of tomorrow. That commitment to research, Otto says, is what it will take to cure all forms of childhood cancer, but it's a commitment that's only possible with philanthropic support.


"Research is the key, but takes time, tenacity and resources," he said. "We thank the Lions and the MACC Fund for this generous, incredible gift."


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Date Published: 03/06/2020

News tag(s):  cancer

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