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Organizations: Ian's Friends Foundation

When he was 2 years old, Ian Yagoda was diagnosed with an inoperable tumor on his brainstem, and his family was plunged into a painful, high-stakes education. They learned that cancer ranks second only to accidents as the leading cause of death in children, and that the study of pediatric brain tumors remains critically underfunded.

So, in 2007, the Yagodas established Ian’s Friends Foundation, which since has become one of this field’s most effective players, steering more than $2 million toward initiatives at research institutions across the country.

“We decided the best gift we could give our son and other families is a cure,” says Phil Yagoda, a managing director at Deutsche Bank in Atlanta.

Local projects in particular show promise, he notes. With support from the foundation, researchers at Georgia Tech won the coveted EUREKA award (which comes with a $1-million grant from the National Institutes of Health) for their Tumor Migration Project, which moves cancerous cells away from the interior of the brain to locations where they can be safely neutralized or extricated.

In addition to funding, laboratories also need other resources such as living, cancerous tissue, which now is available through a reserve called the Ian’s Friends Foundation Brain Tumor Biorepository at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. It provides researchers with the cellular materials they need without a cumbersome application process or profit-sacrificing agreements – territorial strictures that have hampered initiatives in the past.         

“We can’t waste a single day,” Yagoda says, noting his son recently celebrated his 10th birthday, “and we won’t until there is a cure.”

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