A few years ago, NASCAR legend Jeff Gordon was in the Valley for the Barrett-Jackson car auction, where he was auctioning off his 2016 Corvette C7.R Special Edition to raise money for childhood cancer research. That’s where he met Lila, a little girl who at the time was in treatment for leukemia at Phoenix Children’s.
Inspired by trailblazing research
Of course, Gordon is no stranger to Phoenix, having raced here during his storied career. But ever since meeting Lila, he’s had a special place in his heart for the Valley and Phoenix Children’s.
When the opportunity arose to fund the research of Dr. Alexander Ngwube, a Phoenix Children’s hematologist-oncologist, the board of Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation was drawn to the fact that the research focused on acute myeloid leukemia (AML), as was Gordon.
As a result, the foundation awarded a $250,000 grant to fund Dr. Ngwube’s research, one of several key grants the organization has made throughout the country.
“It’s almost hard to believe that in the span of my lifetime, ALL [acute lymphocytic leukemia] was once considered practically incurable, and now nearly 90% of children with the disease survive,” Gordon says. “Now we need to see the same success for AML.”
Funding to reduce recurrence
That’s exactly what Dr. Ngwube’s research aims to do, and the fact that it focuses on reducing recurrence is what Susan Johnston, Executive Director of Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation, is most grateful for—because the only thing worse for a family to hear than a cancer diagnosis is a cancer relapse.
“Going from thinking you’ve beaten childhood cancer to learning that it’s back with a vengeance is the very definition of heartbreak,” she says. “We hope that grants like this one can eventually give families more peace of mind that their childhood cancer battle is behind them—once and for all.”