Lowcountry nonprofit funds new equipment for children’s cancer research at MUSC

A research lab at the Medical University of South Carolina is poised to buy a new $30,000 machine this month to help scientists there develop a drug to fight an aggressive type of children’s cancer.

The Synergy H1 Hybrid Reader studies gene sequences in tumor samples, helping researchers test new drugs on targeted areas. Funds to buy the machine were raised by Chase After a Cure, a local nonprofit dedicated to advancing neuroblastoma research. The group is donating $125,000 to MUSC this month. The gift was raised during the nonprofit’s fifth annual gala, held Feb. 2 at the Charleston Marriott on Lockwood Boulevard.

Neuroblastoma is a type of cancerous tumor that affects mainly children. If neuroblastoma goes undetected and spreads to a child’s lymph nodes or bone marrow, the chance of survival is below 40 percent, said Dr. Jacqueline Kraveka, a pediatric oncologist leading neuroblastoma research efforts at MUSC.

“The treatments are really tough because the kids have to go through chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy and then antibody therapy, which is very painful,” Kraveka said.

“We’re the only lab in the state of South Carolina that’s dedicated to pediatric cancer research,” she said. “Our lab mainly works on studying how does this tumor grow, really working in collaboration with the Basic Sciences to develop new drugs. Our hope is to find one that will improve survival.”

The $125,000 gift effectively doubles Kraveka’s lab’s annual operating budget, she said.

“I’m just amazed by the amount of money that the organization has raised,” Kraveka said. “It’s been really instrumental in having our research going.”

Since 2009, Chase After a Cure has donated $415,000 to research efforts at MUSC.

Whitney Ringler, of Charleston, founded the nonprofit after her son Chase was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2007.

“I felt compelled to do that,” Ringler said.

Chase, 9, is now cancer-free, she said.

Reach Lauren Sausser at 937-5598.

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