My miracle - experimental chemo

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

In 2005, I was given a rare, stage 4, metastatic cancer diagnosis of rhabdomyosarcoma that would forever change my path in life. I was told that this cancer had no treatment plan and therefore my roadmap was determined by entering my age, gender, type of cancer and stage of progression into a computer model that would develop a random treatment. The 42 weeks of chemotherapy, along with the highest radiation possible, would devastate my body. My doctors told me I would most likely not see my 16th birthday. There were times that I didn’t think I could go on and simply wanted to give up. I was only 15. 

Cancer took from me my only chance to be a real teenager. But cancer will do that. It will make you fight whether you're ready or not. I remember fearing that I would never get my driver’s license, walk across a stage to receive my high school diploma, fall in love, or ever just be healthy again.

By January of 2007, I had finished my last day of chemo, radiation was over, and my scans were clear! I don't think I had ever felt such happiness like I did that day. I had seen my last outpatient room with the ugliest curtains I ever laid eyes on, thanked my angel of a nurse, Donna, for taking such great care of me and for always providing me with my favorite "after chemo" cocktail of Ativan and Dilaudid, then headed home.

That happiness lasted a bittersweet six months. The morning of my Mom's birthday, I woke up from a vivid nightmare that the cancer was back. And it was. So, I embarked on yet another course of experimental treatment. Round two was another 50-week roadmap of different chemos that would end up taking almost 2 years to complete and another six weeks of radiation. Radiation that I would fail to complete due to the devastation to my body. The following years were darker than I ever thought imaginable. There were daily clinic visits, some emergency surgeries, nearly weekly trips to the ER, and too many blood transfusions to count.

At two points in my treatment, we were told the cancer wasn’t responding, and at 17 years old, I found myself planning how and where I'd like to spend my last days. My doctors told me I’d feel no more pain and that I didn’t have to fight anymore. If there ever was a time to start believing in miracles, that was it. After repeated scans, it wasn’t what they thought. What had appeared to be new tumors in my lungs turned out instead to be tiny pockets of fluid. There was my miracle. The experimental treatment had been working. Experimental chemotherapy that saved my life and gave me the gift of many more tomorrows. During those years, my body had been through changes that I would never wish on anyone, especially not a child.

I recently celebrated my 28th birthday. I wasn’t supposed to have that gift. Not a day goes by that I don’t love and appreciate this life. My hope is that every child will have that same opportunity for life-saving treatment. Research is what saved my life. That’s what led my doctors to the experimental therapy and to my miracle.

Please give generously to The Morgan Adams Foundation, so they can fund research to help more kids with cancer. Donate online at

Thank you,

Morgan McKillop

You can help kids with cancer RIGHT NOW

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Our young friend Cooper knew research was being done on rare types of kids' brain tumors. He knew that research took money. So when doctors explained last April that his hope for remission was gone, the bright 12-year-old had an idea: he would use his life savings to find a cure.

If only it were that simple. If only the dollars Cooper had saved for college could have made that happen. If only diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or DIPG, weren't the deadly pediatric brain cancer it is. If only the answers had been found before it claimed his life.

After Cooper passed, Sujatha Venkataraman, PhD - one of the researchers working closely with The Morgan Adams Foundation (MAF) - told his parents that targeting DIPG is her "only mission and focus in life." "I lost my own small son Rishi to cancer," Venkataraman reflects. "Kids should not go through these sufferings. DIPG is under-researched and it is always fatal. We are working hard to find a way to improve outcomes for these children."

Childhood cancer is scary. Some types remain 100% fatal. But there is hope.

Last year, Sujatha and Dr. Rajeev Vibhakar received a $20,000 MAF grant to identify drug therapies that may slow DIPG tumor growth. This research has yielded important data and resulted in more grants - totaling $500,000 - from the federal government and other organizations, and that means a new possibility of hope for kids like Cooper.

You have made this possible.Your gift starts the process of getting good ideas out of the lab and into tangible treatment options for kids and teenagers.

Your continuing support will help doctors and researchers pursue every possible new treatment avenue for kids with cancer. The hope you give these kids will be leveraged many times over. I invite you to join me in continuing our work to create a brighter future for kids and teens battling cancer.

With much gratitude,


Founder and Executive Director

Remembering Trevor

Trevor Kling was very involved as a Morgan Adams Foundation Ambassador. A shining light among us, this 14-year-old Honor Roll student missed only one day of school while enduring 36 radiation treatments and 14 months of chemotherapy. He passed in October, more than two years after his diagnosis with anaplastic astrocytoma grade III.

Trevor's dad Dave shares, "When his mom Cheryl and I explained to Trevor that he was dying, he told us he still wanted to fight for other kids. He knew being an Ambassador would help make more money to fund more research, even if it couldn't help him. So, we're going to continue that, because it will make a difference for someone 10 years down the road."

The outlook for kids with Trevor's type of cancer has changed little. Your gift can help move the needle on the translational research needed to change the survival rates for kids battling highly aggressive brain tumors.

Please give generously.

By shining laser light on cancer cells, researchers at The Morgan Adams Foundation Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Program are able to track the effect of promising cancer drugs. "We use a variety of lasers, not for making things happen, but for detecting what is happening in our cancer cells," explains pediatric hematologist-oncologist Dr. Rajeev Vibhakar. "With our imaging flow cytometer, we can detect individual cells, which allows us to learn more from very small samples. The cells are treated with dyes, so that - depending on the laser we shine on them - the light reflected is different. This allows us to tell if the cell is dying - a process called apoptosis - or alive."

Anti-cancer drugs trigger apoptosis in cells that are diseased. Dr. Vibhakar says, "A lot of the research funded by The Morgan Adams Foundation focuses on drugs currently available for the adult population. We want to find new 'targets' for these existing drugs in the pediatric population." When you support this work, your gift helps us fund ways to get new treatments to kids with cancer faster than the decade or more required for most drug development.

Through your gift, you can help make this happen. In this lab. At this time. Thank you for shining a light on new treatment possibilities for kids with cancer.

"This program is the cutting edge."


A neuro-oncology program led by world-class researchers, Dr. Rajeev Vibhakar and Dr. Nick Foreman. A lab producing and documenting breakthrough results. And a promise to stay on the leading edge of finding a cure for pediatric brain cancer. Those energies merged in September at the naming of The Morgan Adams Foundation Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Program. Board Chair John Dudasch recalled his daughter's fight: Avery died at the age of 11 after an 11-month battle with a diffuse high grade glioma. He noted, "These aren't just nameless kids we are asking you to work for. Cancer strikes everywhere. You can help us make a difference."

Please join the Dudasch family in supporting the vital work being done in this dedicated lab. Every gift will be multiplied - in research, results, kids healing, and our infinite hope for a cure.

Sujatha Venkataraman

Sunday, December 03, 2017

After her son Rishi passed away from childhood cancer 14 years ago, Sujatha Venkataraman, PhD, was inspired to switch her research focus from adult breast and prostate cancer to childhood cancer. “Innocent kids should not go through this,” Sujatha reflects. “Kids like my little son are my inspiration.”

As a researcher of The Morgan Adams Foundation Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, she is working to find a cure for DIPG – diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma – which is 100% fatal. “I am currently working on identifying the genes that cause DIPG and to identify gene pathways that make the DIPG tumor aggressive after relapse from radiation treatment.”

The typical treatment for DIPG patients is radiation, the only standard therapy so far. But, the tumor comes back after radiation, growing even more aggressively than the original tumor and becomes resistant to radiation therapy. At that point, there are no treatment options and parents are often told to take their child home to spend the limited time they have left away from the hospital.

DIPG affects children almost exclusively. Approximately 200-400 children in the United States are diagnosed with DIPG each year.

“Since very little is known about DIPG tumor biology, I want to understand the biology of this tumor. Understanding the biology of a tumor is the best way to target it faster.” Last year, Sujatha and Dr. Rajeev Vibhakar received a $20,000 MAF grant to investigate whether PTC-209, a small-molecule inhibitor of BMI1 protein, can help kill DIPG tumor cells. The research has yielded important data and resulted in more grants – totaling $500,000 – from the U.S. Department of Defense and other organizations, and that means a new possibility of hope for kids with this uniformly fatal tumor.

Only 4 percent of the national federal funding goes to pediatric cancer research, Sujatha notes. “A fraction of that money goes to pediatric brain tumor research. Most of our DIPG work is funded by The Morgan Adams Foundation.”

Watch Sujatha talk about DIPG tumors and the research she is working on in this short video.

Sujatha’s published papers related to DIPG include: