The underfunding of pediatric cancer

Cancer in children is rare, but when it is diagnosed, it is devastating.

A local non-profit agency is raising money for research it says is terribly underfunded.

Those funds help children like 17-year-old Melissa Mugno.

She was diagnosed at 13 with osteosarcoma.

She has gone into remission, but relapsed three times.

"I'll never know what a normal teenager is," said Melissa, "All I know is hospitals, port needles, chemotherapy and blood draws."

"What is needed is new combinations of medicines. Things that are brand new and that's the kind of thing The Sunshine Project allows us to bring to these patients", said Dr. Damon Reed of Moffitt Cancer Center.

The Sunshine Project is a collaboration of the nation's top doctors and researchers fast tracking new treatments. The Pediatric Cancer Foundation, which is headquartered here in Tampa,
is behind the project and helps fund that research.

"Childhood cancer is underfunded and we are trying to pick up that gap and make a difference", said Nancy Crane, the executive director of the Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

The foundation raises money through individual contributions, corporate sponsors, grants and fundraising events.

They also offer their cancer patients a chance to make a difference and have a little fun, like a day of pampering event that Melissa attended.

Currently in chemo again, Melissa has become a spokesperson for funding research and hope. She has this message to other kids fighting the same fight.

"Just be strong. It ends. Eventually, you finish. I'm just looking toward the finish line."

For information on how to help, click here

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