by Sue Ann Rybak
Two-year-old Lucy Ditzler has a contagious laugh. It’s hard to believe that when she was just 2 months old, she was diagnosed with leukemia. Thanks to the doctors at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and their cutting-edge research in pediatric cancer, she is in remission.
It’s just one of the reasons why Chestnut Hill resident Noah Shoup, a senior at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy started Compete for a Cure, a nonprofit organization that raises money for underfunded pediatric cancer research.
Using local lacrosse teams for its program, Compete for a Cure raises money for each goal scored throughout the season. After registering with Compete for a Cure, players ask family and friends to pledge money for every goal their team scores throughout the season. The money raised by the organization is then donated to Children’s Hospital or Penn Medicine to fund pediatric cancer research.
Shoup, 17, was inspired to raise funds for pediatric cancer after learning that Ditzler, his cousin, had cancer.
“She is now in remission and is doing very well, but for the past year and a half she has been my inspiration,” he said. “In the United States, less than 5 percent of the federal budget for cancer research goes towards pediatric cancer research. And the vast majority of that money is allocated to childhood leukemia, which is the most common childhood cancer.”
He said many families whose children have rare types of pediatric cancer are often told by doctors that they have run out of treatment options for their children, despite the fact that “childhood cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15 in the U.S,” according to the National Cancer Institute.
Unfortunately, federal funding and pharmaceutical research initiatives are primarily devoted to finding cures for diseases that affect the largest numbers of patients. Pharmaceutical companies lack the financial incentives to develop new medications for rare types of cancers and other rare diseases.
Shoup founded Compete for a Cure in 2015, through SCH’s Sands Center for Entrepreneur Leadership (CEL) program, in an effort to fill that gap.
Edward Glassman, executive director of the program, said the entrepreneur incubator program allows students to study a topic they are passionate about and pursue it through a nine-week entrepreneur boot camp.
“Noah has done three entrepreneur sessions in a row,” he said. It took that long for his idea to really take root and begin to have it ready. Noah is really a hard worker and he is really passionate about this project.”
And his hard work is paying off. On Aug. 16, 2016, Shoup presented a check for $2,000 from Compete for a Cure to Jenna Pugh, assistant director of Peer to Peer fundraising for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The money will help to fund research involving immunotherapy.
Shoup said immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a type of cancer treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. He explained that it uses substances made either by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.
“It’s really a modern innovative, ground-breaking research process that is happening right here in Philadelphia,” he said. “I decided to donate the money to CHOP because they are the best at what they do. I want to be funding the most cutting-edge research in pediatric cancer, because that’s the way I believe Compete for a Cure will have the biggest impact.
“While the race to cure cancer is speeding up, rare and underfunded cancers need a benefactor that can raise money and awareness to keep up with the rapid growth in treatment technology. Compete for a Cure intends to play that role and to the best of its ability, save lives and lead the race to cure pediatric cancer in Philadelphia.”
For more information about Compete for a Cure or to register go to www.compete4thecure.com.