July is Sarcoma Awareness Month. Sarcoma is a cancer of the bone or connective tissue, such as nerves, muscles, cartilage, tendons, fat, and blood vessels. Often deemed the “forgotten cancer” due to its rarity, sarcoma cancers make up only 1% of adult cancer diagnoses but are one of the leading cancers afflicting children, making up 15-20% of diagnoses. According to the National Cancer Institute, about 12,000 cases of soft tissue sarcoma and 3,000 cases of bone sarcoma are diagnosed in the United States each year.

At Atrium Health, a team of nationally renowned physicians is providing the most advanced treatments for bone sarcomas and soft tissue sarcomas. Whether enhancing patient support programs or making medical discoveries through the latest clinical trials, philanthropy plays a critical role in the treatment of sarcoma and other rare diseases, which are not well studied or funded. Atrium Health Foundation is fortunate to work closely with many community organizations that are investing in sarcoma research at Atrium Health Levine Cancer Institute and Atrium Health Levine Children’s, including the Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research.

Since 2013, the Paula Takacs Foundation has donated over $1.5 million for clinical research at Atrium Health, most notably through its annual Sarcoma Stomp. The 2022 event, which took place on April 23, welcomed participants for a day filled with joy and determination. Thanks to the dedication of families, donors, and corporate sponsors, the Paula Takacs Foundation boldly surpassed its fundraising goal, raising $220,000 in hopes of finding a cure. Recent funding will support an upcoming clinical trial at Levine Cancer Institute and Levine Children’s Hospital, which will be open to sarcoma patients as young as 5 years old. The trial, SARC038, is a Phase 2 study of Regorafenib in combination with Nivolumab in patients with refractory or recurrent osteosarcoma. These drugs are a form of targeted therapy and immunotherapy.

Pictured at the 2022 Sarcoma Stomp (L-R): Hank Povinelli, a sarcoma patient at Levine Cancer Institute, Dr. Colin Anderson with his wife, Shelbi; and Sue Udelson, Executive Director of the Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research.

On the heels of another successful Sarcoma Stomp, the Paula Takacs Foundation recently announced it has joined forces with the Lauren Kimsey Foundation for Synovial Sarcoma of Davidson, NC. “Combining our efforts will allow us to have a larger and even more impactful footprint in regional sarcoma research funding while reducing duplicative operational expenses,” shared Sue Udelson, Executive Director of the Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research. “And so, with excitement we announce that the Lauren Marie Kimsey Foundation for Synovial Sarcoma has suspended its operations, combining efforts with our organization so that we can be an even more powerful force in carrying out our mission to fund local research, expand global hope, and amplify sarcoma awareness.”

In 2016, Lauren Kimsey lost her life from synovial sarcoma at age 39. Her family founded the Lauren Marie Kimsey Foundation for Synovial Sarcoma, and over the course of four years, has raised over $240,000 to fund synovial sarcoma research at Levine Cancer Institute and other hospitals in her memory. Both foundations are excited to join efforts going forward, contributing to the success of the Paula Takacs Foundation’s mission to help improve the outcomes of children and adults stricken with sarcomas.

We are deeply grateful to each of the community partners and the many individual donors who continue to advance sarcoma research and patient care in the Carolinas and beyond.