Welcome to Project Stella

Project Stella, an initiative at Fred Hutch Cancer Center, 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, Casey and Jed launched Project Stella to help change the outcome for other children and families facing AML.

Project Stella is led by Dr. Soheil Meshinchi,  a world-renowned pediatric AML expert at Fred Hutch Cancer Center, in partnership with other families impacted by this devastating disease. This unique initiative is 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.

Because of the solid foundation the Novotny’s built, Project Stella is able to reach other families affected by AML, such as Christina and Joe Siders. Christina and Joe have teamed up with Project Stella to fuel cures for their 4-year-old daughter, Ella, who’s being treated for Stella’s mutation of AML.

Thanks to Casey, Jed and our visionary supporters, as of November 2023 we have received gifts and commitments of $2,019,000. This funding has allowed completion of the development and testing of a new immunotherapy for this deadly leukemia with a clinical trial to start in 2024. While generous Project Stella donors have fueled rapid progress in the research, there is work left to be done. With additional support we will extend ongoing work toward building the new CAR-T treatment for these aggressive forms of AML.

Clinical Trial Needs and Additional AML Targets

In addition to the $2,019,000 we raised, our partnership with the Children's Cancer Research Fund generated an additional $1.25 million grant to provide treatment for the first 10 patients once the CAR-T clinical trial is approved in early 2024. In large part, this grant was made possible by the Shook Foundation’s incredibly generous $900,000 gift to CCRF for this purpose.

We need an additional $500,000 in funding to support ongoing work in advancing and supporting the upcoming clinical trial and the pursuit of two additional targets, PRAME & WT1.  Dr. Meshinchi and his team have found that these targets are present in 30 to 40% of all pediatric AML patients.

Your gift will bring us that much closer to our goal and honor Stella's inspiring legacy by helping bring cures to so many children. Gifts made between December 1, 2023 and February 28, 2024, will be matched up to the first $100,000.

As parent advocates and sponsors of this website; we do not have any paid employees and 100% of all donations go directly to this vital research via Fred Hutch’s donation links.

Fred Hutch Cancer Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  Donations are assigned to Project Stella.

Check out this link to see if your workplace has a matching gift program.

The Funding Problem

Pediatric AML is tremendously underfunded and under researched, leaving young children with few options. Treatment protocols are tailored to adults and fail to accurately address the unique subtypes of pediatric cancer.  Please help us spread awareness and raise funding.  We can do better.  We have to do better.

Why have only 3 new drugs been approved for pediatric cancer in over 30 YEARS?

  • Because the market for pediatric therapies is smaller than that of adults, it doesn't incentivize private industry and pharmaceutical companies to invest. Basically, there isn't enough of a monetary payoff for pharma.

  • With less incentive for private industry to invest in pediatric research, the roles of philanthropies and the federal government become critical for childhood drug development.

  • Federal research dollars allocate only 4% of all cancer research dollars toward childhood cancer. Only 4%!   Moreover, funding is typically awarded based on ranking of research proposals and reach, regardless of specific disease and need. As a result, 'rare' forms of pediatric cancer are overlooked ("Translating Discovery into Cures for Children with Cancer," American Cancer Society).

It is because of this that private funding is so crucial in finding cures for aggressive forms of childhood cancer, like those being researched at Fred Hutch Cancer Center for Project Stella.   All donations go straight to the Meshinchi Lab for Project Stella research!  

Why Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center

* Other treatment centers only accept patients who fit into one of their trials.  Fred Hutch is often a place of last resort, willing to take on the toughest of cases.

* Fred Hutch is the leading recipient of NIH Funding among all of the 72 NCI designated Cancer Centers- these grants are awarded by an impartial scientific body. This speaks to the quality of the research at The Hutch.

* Fred Hutch, in partnership with the Global Oncology Group, is the holder of the largest repository of pediatric AML tumor samples in the world. This data is critical to finding cures and doing this research.

* Fred Hutch researchers consult with leading researchers at other facilities – typically on these extremely difficult cases.

* Fred Hutch performs research on rare types of pediatric AML, while the majority of AML research is on Adult AML. Pediatric and adult AML are in no way similar.

* Over 1.3M bone marrow transplants have been done worldwide. This process was developed at Fred Hutch who also provided the training required at other locations.

* Drs. E. Donnall Thomas (1990), Lee Hartwell (2001) and Linda Buck (2004). Each received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine and further cemented Fred Hutch’s reputation for scientific innovation and excellence.