New hires' initiative aims at enhancing brain tumor care, research in Nebraska

New hires' initiative aims at enhancing brain tumor care, research in Nebraska

Monday, November 5, 2018

By Julie Anderson - Omaha World-Herald  staff writer - Published on November 3, 2018.

Two new hires will help up Nebraska’s game when it comes to treating kids with brain tumors and developing new treatments.

Dr. Jonathan Schwartz, a pediatric neuro-oncologist, will round out a relatively new team treating kids with brain and spinal cord tumors. Schwartz said the visits are set up like a one-stop shop: All of a child’s cancer specialists and providers are in the room at one time so everyone has the same plan and the same message.

Funding from the Team Jack Foundation helped support Schwartz’s hiring. The foundation is providing $250,000 a year for six years, or a total of $1.5 million, for the pediatric brain tumor program as a whole.

Schwartz and Dr. Donald Durden, another recent arrival and a nationally known pediatric oncologist and researcher, seek to offer new clinical trials that will give patients access to new therapies.

Durden also will lead efforts to develop and apply targeted, personalized drug therapies for pediatric and adult cancers at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Durden, who holds positions with both health systems, comes from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and brings more than $9 million in National Institutes of Health grant funding.

Team Jack also has launched an initiative to raise an additional $5 million over the next five years to fund research, pain management related to cancer and education.

“This thing has accelerated,” said Andy Hoffman, the foundation’s co-founder and father to Jack, who has pediatric brain cancer. “It’s just taken off.”

An estimated 10,590 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in kids up to age 14 in 2018, according to the National Cancer Institute. Adding adolescents up to age 19, as some agencies do, brings the estimate to 15,590.

Cancer trails only accidents as the top killer of children and adolescents in Nebraska and nationally.

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