Project Stella is a unique initiative focused on developing targeted treatments for an aggressive form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia called AML-RAM/CBF-GLIS. This form of AML impacts children under the age of 5 and currently carries a dismal 8-14% survival rate. The aim of Project Stella is simple: identify the targets, attack the targets, cure the cancer.
Project Stella was formed in 2017 by the Novotny family in memory of their daughter Stella, who passed away from AML-RAM just after her 4th birthday. Driven by their love for their daughter, the Novotny’s formed Project Stella to give more children the opportunity to survive.
Project Stella is led by Dr. Soheil Meshinchi in partnership with other families impacted by this devestating disease. We do not have any paid employees and 100% of all donations go to Fred Hutch (501c3 non-profit).
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Pediatric AML, or Acute Myeloid Leukemia, is a collection of deadly blood cancers. It is resistent to treatment and known for relapse. As such, the treatment of AML is aggressive and often unrelenting. Because this cancer lives within the myeloid cell, it impacts the child’s ability to create red and white blood cells as well as platelets; paralyzing the immune system. Traditional chemotherapies obliterate all myeloid cells. This results in a child who is unable to make blood or platelets, and is prone to life threatening infections and illness at key points in treatment. Many children then have to endure a stem cell transplant, where the existing immune system is wiped clean, making room for donor stem cells. Pain, chronic damage to organs, and massive weight loss are a few of the more minor side effects in the initial stages of transplant. Engraftment occurs when the marrow begins making new cells, with the ultimate hope that the donor’s immune system will fight any residial or returning disease. But despite this brutal treatment protocol, the cancer often returns. Stem cell transplants are life-altering. Doctors and parents refer to the transplant process as ‘bringing a child to the edge of death.’ As a parent, witnessing this process makes you wonder: which is worse, the cancer or the treatment?
This is why precision treatments are critically needed. Treatments like those being researched at Project Stella. Immunotherapies target only the leukemic cells, leaving the healthy cells unharmed. They are effective. They are tailored. And most importantly, they don’t require a child to be brought to the edge of death.