Kate Amato Foundation Awards $75,000 in grants to accelerate pediatric cancer research and launches Kate’s Kindness Project in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (September 24, 2020) – Kate Amato Foundation is continuing to honor Childhood Cancer Awareness Month this September with two exciting announcements, they are awarding $75,000 to fund two groundbreaking pediatric cancer research projects, which serves their mission and they have launched Kate’s Kindness Project, which provides immediate direct support to local children hospitalized with cancer.

Kate Amato, a local Jacksonville Beach child who passed away in November 2016 after a long and difficult battle with cancer, is the inspiration for the Foundation.  Kate’s bright smile, strength and grace captured the hearts of thousands of residents in our community and around the world.  Through her illness, Kate’s parents discovered how severely underfunded research is for pediatric cancer and witnessed first-hand the brutal effects of outdated, toxic treatments.  To honor Kate’s life and continue the fight for other children, the Kate Amato Foundation was formed to find safer, smarter, and more effective treatments for children with cancer.  

Each year, the foundation grants funding to cutting-edge pediatric cancer research projects at some of the leading Immunotherapy and Cancer Genomics research labs in the country including: Duke University, Baylor College of Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School. 

Dr. Duane Mitchell, Director of the University of Florida Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program, who serves on the KAF Scientific Advisory Board, states, “Kate Amato Foundation is dedicated to supporting research to advance the next generation of pediatric cancer treatments that are more effective and less toxic than current approaches.”

These grants are predominantly funded by the signature KATE events held each year: the KATE KUP Triples Tennis Tournament and the KATE KLASSIC Golf Tournament.  Both of which were sidelined in 2020 due to the current pandemic. 

Although COVID-19 has dramatically impacted their fundraising efforts this year, Kate Amato Foundation is thrilled to announce they are awarding $75,000 to fund two projects.  The 2020 Kate Amato Foundation Grant recipients are:

Ken Morita, MD, PhD at Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital whose project is titled, “Elucidating Molecular Mechanisms Underlying Exceptionally Wide Therapeutic Window for Small Molecule Allosteric Activators of Protein Phosphatase 2A.” This study will investigate a novel, targeted drug compound that is nontoxic, highly potent and could potentially treat a variety of childhood cancers including T-cell leukemia, acute myeloid leukemia (AML), neuroblastoma and solid tumors.

Dr. Look (left) and Dr. Morita (right) – Grant Recipients

Matthew Harlow, PhD at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital whose project is titled, “Selective cytotoxic effects of CDK12 inhibition on metastatic osteosarcoma cells.” This study will investigate the cellular processes of metastasis to the lungs in order to develop novel drug compounds.  This research is critical for the development of safer, targeted immunotherapies for children with metastatic osteosarcoma.

Matthew Harlow, PhD – Grant Recipient

Dr. Timothy Cripe, member of the Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapy Advisory Committee which reports to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also serves on the KAF Scientific Advisory Board and adds, “The fact that the Foundation can continue to provide funding to support research projects during the pandemic is remarkable, and speaks to the dedication of the founders and their network of supporters as well as the Jacksonville community at large. This year’s awardees are highly deserving of support. Both Drs. Morita and Harlow propose to study novel targeted agents that selectively attack cancer cells and spare normal cells, which fulfills the mission of finding safer, smarter treatments for children with cancer.”

In addition to funding these research projects this year, Kate Amato Foundation is happy to be partnering with Once Upon a Room-Jacksonville to launch Kate’s Kindness Project. This initiative will provide direct support to local children and families fighting cancer during COVID-19.  Cancer is hard enough, but the additional restrictions, isolation, fears, and uncertainty in the current climate are making it even harder.  As a gesture of kindness and encouragement, the organizations are teaming up to deliver care packages to children, teens and parents filled with comfort items, room décor and gift cards.  Packages will be delivered to Wolfson Children’s Hospital every Friday in September.  

Wolfson Child Life Specialists (left) receive Kate’s Kindness Project baskets from Lisa Amato (Kate Amato Foundation) and Tina Toomey (Once Upon a Room)

Lisa and Jeff Amato, Kate’s parents and founders of KAF, expressed sincere gratitude to the Jacksonville community, saying, “The support we have received is overwhelming, humbling, and inspiring.  The outpouring of love and support for Kate throughout her illness was breathtaking and the ongoing support to build her legacy by funding research to help future children is extraordinary.  It shows just how kind and caring our community is.” 

Posted in