Florida fishing tournament raises money for childhood cancer research

November 13, 2014

Funds will help support pediatric leukemia work led by HSCI’s David Langenau, PhD

A Palmetto Bay, Florida, private school transformed its annual fishing tournament into a fundraiser for childhood cancer research at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). The event honored student Briana Vega, who passed away at twelve from leukemia.

Westminster Christian School donated all proceeds to the Live Like Bella® Foundation for Childhood Cancer, which is dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer by funding innovative research and providing support for families dealing with pediatric cancer.

The organization chose to use the money to support researcher David Langenau, PhD, and his lab as they identify new strategies to combat therapy-resistant T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL).

Langenau is an HSCI principal faculty member and an assistant professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. His research focuses on uncovering the mechanisms driving progression and relapse in pediatric tumors.

"It is a privilege for the Live Like Bella® Foundation to work with Dr. Langenau and his team in advancing research for childhood cancer,” said Chairman Raymond Rodriguez-Torres, M.mgt. We feel proud to honor Briana, my daughter Bella, and all the children who have or are currently battling cancer by funding the promising work at the Langenau Lab and HSCI."

The Live Like Bella® Foundation was established in memory of Bella Rodriguez-Torres, who died of rhabdomyosarcoma, an aggressive childhood cancer that arises in muscle stem cells, also studied in the Langenau Laboratory.

T-ALL is a childhood disease, with a thirty percent survival rate for patients suffering relapse. Using zebrafish models of pediatric cancer, including leukemia, the Langenau Laboratory has undertaken studies to visualize tumor cells in live animals. Work funded by the Live Like Bella® Foundation will build on results and will fund research on new strategies to kill therapy resistant leukemia cells. There is hope that these findings will also extend to a wide range of pediatric leukemias.

"We are deeply honored to partner with the Live Like Bella® Foundation and the Westminster Christian School community to continue our search for cures for pediatric leukemia," said Langenau. “Grants awarded from foundations in memory of children like Briana and Bella have been pivotal to fostering innovative science and defining new therapeutic approaches throughout the pediatric oncology community.”