The Good Work at Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

Each year, more than 16,000 children will receive a new cancer diagnosis. Last year alone 456 parents walked through the doors of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and heard the devastating words, “your child has cancer.” That’s more than one family per day.

In recent years the Aflac Cancer Center has seen exponential growth in patient volumes, caring for more children with cancer and blood disorders than any other program in the country. This large volume allows them to evaluate each child and learn from each patient seen. And because of the large number of children cared for here in Atlanta, the Aflac Cancer Center is in the top two percent of institutions for clinical trial enrollment. So, what does this mean? This means these children have access to the most novel treatment options and most promising therapies for their specific needs. We learn from each of these patients and, in return, share that information with all other pediatric cancer programs across the country.

Once again, this year the Aflac Cancer Center has been named a top pediatric cancer program by U.S. News and World Report, and is dedicated to finding new innovative treatments and conducting cutting-edge research, because every child deserves a lifetime. Children’s recognizes they cannot accomplish this alone.

Children’s is both humbled and honored to be the beneficiary of the 2019 annual fundraising efforts thru Polo in the Pines. With the wonderful and generous support to the Sharon McCollum Knight, Polo in the Pines Pediatric Cancer Research Fund at Children’s, through the Aflac Cancer Center, researchers like Dr. Tobey MacDonald and Dr. Jason Fangusaro are working together to provide a better future for the patients that need them most.  Children’s Aflac Neuro-Oncology program focuses on “Four pillars”—basic and translational research, innovative clinical trials, a survivor program identifying quality of life and neurocognitive outcomes, and trains the next generation of researchers with pediatric neuro-oncology fellowships. Support from Polo in the Pines has directly impacted the basic/translational research—developing new therapeutics for pediatric brain tumors, as well as supporting innovative clinical trials developing targeted therapeutics to prevent metastasis.  

Dr. Tobey MacDonald was recruited by Dr. Bill Woods to join the Pediatric Brain Cancer Program at Children’s in 2009. He currently is Professor of Pediatrics, Emory University and serves as Director of the Neuro-oncology Program and Aflac Endowed Chair for Pediatric Neuro-oncology of the Aflac Cancer Center. The Children’s Pediatric Brain Tumor Program has grown over the past 10 years to include six physicians, along with five collaborative basic scientist investigators who provide clinical care in a coordinated approach.

Dr. Jason Fangusaro joined Children’s as the Director of Developmental Therapeutics in September 2018, and holds the Carter S. Martin Endowed Chair for the Aflac Cancer Center. He came to Georgia from Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, where he was Director of the Pediatric Neuro-oncology Program. He has an expertise and specialty training in treating children with central nervous system malignancies, including brain and spinal cord tumors. His primary area of research is the development of early phase clinical trials, novel therapeutics and relevant biologic correlates to improve survival outcomes and minimize toxicities. Within pediatric brain tumors, his research has focused on three main areas: low-grade gliomas, central nervous system germ cell tumors and early phase clinical trials. 

Polo in the Pines salutes these amazing doctors and the entire staff at Aflac Cancer Center.