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Monica Buchanan, Director of Communications
(860) 837-5701 MBuchanan@connecticutchildrens.org
HARTFORD, CT —A $500,000 gift from the Reid R. Sacco Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Alliance will help Connecticut Children’s Medical Center expand the availability of clinical trials to adolescents and young adults with cancer, a patient population that has not seen as many therapeutic advances in cancer treatment over the past 30 years as compared with younger and older patient populations. The new gift brings the Alliance’s total giving to Connecticut Children’s to $1 million in memory of Gene and Lorraine Saccos’ son, Reid, who died in 2005 at the age of 20, following a two-year battle with sarcoma.
The Saccos, of Lynnfield, Mass., who are founding members of the Reid R. Sacco Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Alliance – and their son, Weston – joined Hematology/Oncology staff and other special guests for a program dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony Feb. 15 to formally name the Reid R. Sacco Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. The gift from the Alliance will support and sustain Connecticut Children’s AYA Cancer Program, expanding the availability of clinical trials to cancer patients ages 15-40, and enhancing services to adolescents and young adult patients with cancer.
Michael Isakoff, MD, Clinical Director at Connecticut Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and a physician-researcher with expertise in bone and soft tissue sarcomas, established the AYA Cancer Program at Connecticut Children’s more than a decade ago with support from the Sacco family.
“Over that time, we have solidified our relationship with adult cancer centers and have increased access to clinical trials for adolescent and young adult patients, thanks to the support of the Reid R. Sacco AYA Cancer Alliance,” said Dr. Isakoff, who leads the AYA Cancer Program at Connecticut Children’s. “Moving forward, we are formalizing our program, which will help us grow and help more adolescent and young adult patients throughout western New England.”
“In his journal, Reid wrote, ‘I learned that there aren’t any shortcuts to achieving one’s goals, and that progress often comes one step at a time. Perseverance is necessary for achievement. But progress can easily be lost if you don’t maintain your commitment and perseverance,’” said Gene Sacco during the afternoon event. “Our commitment and Dr. Isakoff’s commitment to the AYA Program at Connecticut Children’s exemplifies the perseverance that Reid spoke of, and had made possible today’s remarkable milestone.”
Each year, some 70,000 adolescents and young adults between the ages of 15 and 40 are diagnosed with cancer, the leading cause of disease-related death among this age group. While five-year survival rates for pediatric patients have steadily risen over the past few decades, those for AYA patients have not kept pace. Adolescents and young adults tend to fall into a gap in cancer treatment and research, as most cancer facilities are designed for adults or pediatric patients.
“We need to grow and expand this program because it uniquely addresses the mission of saving the lives of adolescents and young adults with cancer,” said Lorraine Sacco. “This program fills a vital gap in cancer care and treatment in a most vibrant age group, a group that is our society’s future.”
Bridging the Gap
Connecticut Children’s has been working to bridge this gap for several years, both in terms of clinical trials of new treatments and by supporting the distinctive emotional and social challenges that adolescents and young adults face. As a member of multiple national and international consortia that bring new treatment possibilities to patients, including Children’s Oncology Group (COG), Connecticut Children’s has openings in more than 100 clinical trials, including biology studies aimed at better understanding the nature of cancer in young people as well as treatment studies that will help more patients survive various cancers.
This generous commitment from the Alliance will allow the Reid R. Sacco AYA Cancer Program at Connecticut Children’s to expand its efforts in several areas.
“The newly dedicated Reid R. Sacco AYA Cancer Program at Connecticut Children’s will enable Dr. Isakoff and his team to further investigate early-phase clinical trials, while providing support to patients and families,” said David Kinahan, President of Connecticut Children’s Medical Center Foundation. “Connecticut Children’s is privileged and honored to have friends like the Saccos, who support the work of our talented medical professionals and are providing new hope to adolescents and young adults battling cancer.”
Lorraine Sacco said the program dedication marked a turning point in their family’s journey. “Thank you for a truly wonderful day, a mark in time,” Lorraine Sacco said. “I truly felt for the first time in our 13 years in this battle that we finally have made it to that turning point where we are changing the lives and futures of invaluable young adults, like Reid, diagnosed with cancer.”
About the Reid R. Sacco AYA Cancer Alliance
The mission of the Alliance is to provide a fundraising and educational organization from which to promote scholarship, medical research, and other benevolent purposes that, directly or indirectly, correlate with the values, ambitions, and life of Reid Sacco. Each year it hosts several fundraising events, including Reid’s Ride, a 28-mile bicycle ride attended by more than 400 participants. For more information, visit cancerinyoungadults.org.
About Connecticut Children’s Medical Center
Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is the only hospital in Connecticut dedicated exclusively to the care of children. Connecticut Children’s is a nationally recognized not-for-profit with a medical staff of more than 1,000 providing comprehensive, world-class health care in more than 30 pediatric specialties and subspecialties. Connecticut Children’s Medical Center is the primary pediatric teaching hospital for the UConn School of Medicine and Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University as well as a research partner of Jackson Laboratory. Connecticut Children’s Office for Community Child Health is a national leader in community-based prevention and wellness programs.
Monica Buchanan, Director, Corporate Communications