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Hugs for Brady Takes Huge Leap to Battle Cancer

South Brunswick charity donates $300,000 to Cancer Institute of New Jersey to study pediatric precision medicine.

From left: Hugs for Brady founders Sherrie and Michael Wells with Dr. Shridar Ganesan in his Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey laboratory. Photography by Matt Rainey.
From left: Hugs for Brady founders Sherrie and Michael Wells with Dr. Shridar Ganesan in his Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey laboratory. Photography by Matt Rainey.
When they lost their son Brady to pediatric leukemia at the age of 23 months in 2010, a mission was born for Kendall Park residents Mike and Sherrie Wells.

Out of their overwhelming grief, the couple turned their focus to support all causes concerning pediatric cancer with the establishment of the Hugs for Brady Foundation, which provides support for everything from buying custom built wagons, computers, televisions and video games for patients, to helping finance a pediatric/hematology fellowship program. Last week the foundation took a huge step in the fight against cancer with a $300,000 donation to the precision medicine initiative at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey to explore genomic profiling in pediatric malignancies. 

“While pediatric cancer survivor rates are generally high, there are those children – like Brady – who unfortunately lose their fight due to rare forms of the disease," said Sherrie Wells. "Hugs for Brady is committed to helping scientists further unlock the mysteries of rare pediatric cancers. By supporting the cutting edge research and expert analysis being conducted through the precision medicine initiative at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, we are moving closer to a cure."

Precision medicine involves a different method for the identification of the best treatment options for patients. Clinicians analyze genetic data instead of focusing on the organ where the cancer originated, according to CINJ. The genetic testing allows for the tiniest details of a tumor biopsy to be uncovered, which can reveal multiple mutations in the patient’s genes and can then be targeted with new or existing drugs.  

The Wells family hopes to help the youngest of patients with their gift following the ordeal young Brady endured. 

Brady was diagnosed with non-differentiated acute Leukemia in October, 2009. He went through six rounds of chemotherapy and one peripheral blood stem cell transplant during his fight with the disease. But 72 days after Brady’s successful transplant, he relapsed before succumbing to his disease and passing away in Sherrie's arms.

The organization has gone on to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for families with kids fighting cancer. Recently the foundation launched a partnership with ProCure Proton Therapy Center in Somerset to help raise awareness surrounding childhood cancers, provide resources for patients and their families, support new research initiatives and educate the public about available treatment options.  

The foundation also established the Hugs for Brady Foundation Pediatric Young Investigator Award at the Cancer Institute, which is a two-year grant to foster early career development for promising young scientist as they search for innovative pediatric cancer research. 

However, with their latest donation, Hugs for Brady is looking to provide additional opportunities for the analysis of genetic profiles for young patients to better understand the disease for improved treatment options.

“Recent research shows that more potential targets are being identified through genomic analysis for pediatric cancers. The commitment put forth by Hugs for Brady will help Cancer Institute investigators further build on those findings so that optimal treatments can be found for these young patients,” said Shridar Ganesan, MD, PhD, associate director for translational science at the Cancer Institute. “We are grateful to the Hugs for Brady Foundation for its continued dedication to the fight against pediatric cancer.”

Click here to view upcoming fundraisers and to help the Hugs for Brady Foundation raise money for the fight against pediatric cancer.

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