ELLENTON, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Feld Family, owners of Feld Entertainment, Inc., the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® and the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation®, announced today a new funding effort with Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital (PCH) and University of Utah Department of Pediatrics oncologist and Huntsman Cancer Institute investigator Dr. Joshua Schiffman. The fundraising commitment comes on the heels of new pediatric cancer research findings published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) by Dr. Schiffman.
Dr. Schiffman and the team from Primary Children’s Hospital, the Department of Pediatrics, and Huntsman Cancer Institute, all in Salt Lake City, Utah, are studying why there is such a low incidence of cancer in elephants, what makes this cancer resistance possible in elephants and not in humans, and how this may correlate to new treatments for pediatric cancers.
More than 16,000 children and teenagers are diagnosed with cancer every year in the United States; meanwhile elephants experience almost no cancer over their lifetimes. Dr. Schiffman; Dr. Dennis Schmitt, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Chair of Veterinary Services and Director of Research; and Dr. Wendy Kiso, Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation Research and Conservation Scientist; and other scientific collaborators on their team; recently confirmed that elephants rarely develop cancer with a mortality rate of less than 5 percent compared to up to 25 percent in humans. Looking at the elephant genome, they described that elephants have 40 copies of a tumor suppressor gene named TP53 compared to only two copies in humans.
Working with Utah's Hogle Zoo and the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, Dr. Schiffman and colleagues studied the response of elephant blood to DNA damaging agents and discovered that elephant cells undergo cell death more rapidly compared to human cells. Dr. Schiffman believes this may be why elephants develop less cancer than humans. The study’s full findings have been published in the new edition of the Journal of American Medical Association.
"With this partnership between Ringling Bros. and Primary Children’s Hospital, we are now exploring how to apply these discoveries to children and families most at risk to develop cancer," said Dr. Schiffman. "We want to use these lessons from nature to prevent, develop early recognition tools, and treat cancer in humans."
Applying the translational research around cancer – the findings from the basic science that enhance human health and well-being by improving medical and nursing practices and creating meaningful health outcomes – could pave the way for an entirely new frontier of cancer research and treatment, from the laboratory bench to the bedside.
“Twenty years ago, we founded the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation to preserve the endangered Asian elephant for future generations. Little did we know then that they may hold the key to cancer treatment and we’re tremendously excited to be a part of it,” said Kenneth Feld, Chairman and CEO of Feld Entertainment.
The Feld Family is forming the Ringling Bros. Children’s Fund™ as an element of their ongoing philanthropy through the Feld Family Foundation to support children’s charities. As part of the partnership with Primary Children’s Hospital, the Department of Pediatrics, and Dr. Schiffman, the Ringling Bros. Children’s Fund and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will be donating more than $1 million to support cancer research and to care for children.
In the next 50 cities Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey visits, Ringling Bros. will donate $10,000 to a local children’s hospital or treatment center and the Ringling Bros. Children’s Fund will match each donation with an additional $10,000 donation to the Primary Children’s Hospital Foundation to support the PCH Pediatric Cancer Research Program. This program, which helped support the elephant research, focuses on novel approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and improving the value of pediatric cancer care.
“At Ringling Bros., we’re all about entertaining families and giving back to the communities where we perform every week. In addition to the financial contributions made by Feld Entertainment and the Ringling Bros. Children’s Fund, we will be bringing our performers directly to the hospitals to entertain families who aren’t able to make it to the show,” said Alana Feld, Executive Vice President of Feld Entertainment and Producer of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey.
“This ongoing partnership to raise funds for research with Ringling Bros. enables us to assist in new cancer treatment protocols, that provide a more innovative and integrated approach to cancer treatment and provide better long-term outcomes and support families through long-term care,” says Richard Lemons, MD, PhD, medical director and chief of pediatric hematology/oncology at Primary Children's Hospital. Dr. Lemons oversees the PCH Pediatric Cancer Research Program.
“Cancer affects so many families across this county, and unfortunately it’s becoming more common, especially among children. We’re hopeful that our research will lead to new prospects for improved treatments for pediatric cancer,” says Katy Welkie, CEO of Primary Children’s Hospital.
Additional information on Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey and the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation, the partnership and information on how families can donate to the research can be found online at www.ringling.com and www.ringlingelephantcenter.com.
About Feld Entertainment
Feld Entertainment is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live touring family entertainment experiences that lift the human spirit and create indelible memories, with 30 million people in attendance at its shows each year. Feld Entertainment's productions have appeared in more than 75 countries and on six continents to date and include Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey®, Monster Jam®, Monster Energy Supercross, AMSOIL Arenacross, Disney On Ice Presented by Stonyfield YoKids Organic Yogurt, Disney Live! Presented by Stonyfield YoKids Organic Yogurt and Marvel Universe LIVE! More information about Feld Entertainment is available online at www.feldentertainment.com. More information on the Ringling Bros. Center for Elephant Conservation is available at www.ringlingelephantcenter.com.
About Primary Children’s Hospital
Primary Children's Hospital is the only full-service children's hospital for Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Montana providing care for children with the most complex injury and illness, including those who require heart, liver, kidney and bone marrow transplants. Primary Children’s is the only Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center in the Intermountain West. It is owned by Intermountain Healthcare, a not-for-profit healthcare system, and is affiliated with the University of Utah School of Medicine, which brings together research, training and excellent care to provide the best health care for children. Donations are administered by Primary Children’s Hospital Foundation, a separately incorporated public charity under IRS Code 501(c)(3). The foundation supports the hospital’s goals of providing the highest level of pediatric care in an atmosphere of love and concern.
About the University of Utah Department of Pediatrics
The Department of Pediatrics is the second largest department in the University of Utah School of Medicine and one of the largest pediatric departments in the country. There are 270 faculty members in the department with a fairly equal distribution of men and women, and we have the greatest number of tenured female faculty in the School of Medicine. The department is comprised of 22 medical divisions and programs operating in conjunction with four key enterprises: Education, Research, Clinical, and Academic. Divisions provide a full spectrum of specialty and subspecialty pediatric services for children throughout the Intermountain West.
About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah
Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is one of the world’s top academic research and cancer treatment centers. HCI manages the Utah Population Database - the largest genetic database in the world, with more than 16 million records linked to genealogies, health records, and vital statistics. Using this data, HCI researchers have identified several cancer-causing genes, including the genes responsible for melanoma, colon and breast cancer, and paraganglioma. HCI is a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (a 26-member alliance of the world's leading cancer centers) and is a National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and operates several high-risk clinics that focus on melanoma and breast, colon, and pancreas cancers. The HCI Cancer Learning Center for patient and public education contains one of the nation's largest collections of cancer-related publications. The institute is named after Jon M. Huntsman, a Utah philanthropist, industrialist, and cancer survivor.