Toys & Training

Tales from the Lab – Visiting St. Jude Youngsters’s Analysis Hospital – discovering completely different approaches to pathology and childhood most cancers analysis

Picture: Dr Matthew Clarke pictured exterior the St. Jude Youngsters’s Analysis Hospital.

Collaboration is an important contributor to the success of any type of analysis. My PhD challenge focussed on a really uncommon group of mind tumours (toddler high-grade gliomas) and so collaboration with each nationwide and worldwide collaborators was very important to make sure samples had been out there for inclusion and additional research. On account of this work, there have been almost 120 completely different authors listed as a part of the publication. 

A few of these essential collaborators had been based mostly at St. Jude Youngsters’s Analysis Hospital. Professor David Ellison, an internationally famend neuropathologist, had offered a number of instances and his experience as a part of my research. After my PhD concluded, we saved in contact, and he very kindly invited me to return and go to St. Jude. I jumped on the alternative each to go to the hospital and to study from somebody I’ve at all times admired and revered. 

After navigating the Covid-19 testing necessities for the US, I efficiently arrived, and my journey started! I used to be supplied with a stunning condo simply throughout from the Mississippi River which supplied some unimaginable sunsets and beautiful walks on my manner again from the hospital. 

The bizarre origins of St. Jude

St. Jude Youngsters’s Analysis Hospital was based in 1962 by the entertainer Danny Thomas. He had been struggling for work on this business which led him to say a prayer to the patron saint of misplaced causes, St Jude Thaddeus: “Present me my manner in life, and I’ll construct you a shrine.” 

Shortly after this, Danny’s fortunes rotated and he loved a really profitable profession throughout which he obtained a sequence of awards. True to his phrase, Danny determined to embark on the event of the hospital and selected to take action in Memphis, probably the most disadvantaged cities within the US. On the time of the hospital’s founding, the US was within the midst of a really divisive interval related to the civil rights motion.

However the hospital challenged this division and, by its mission assertion, it aimed to advance cures, and technique of prevention, for catastrophic paediatric ailments by analysis and remedy. Additionally, no little one was to be denied remedy based mostly on race, faith, or a household’s potential to pay.

A pop-up banner displaying the St. Jude values

Picture: St. Jude’s values on show for workers to see.

To additional cement the inclusivity, segregation was not seen within the hospital, and the architect was an African American known as Paul Williams. It was actually a spot main the way in which for change each when it comes to the social, scientific, and medical spheres.

Danny and his spouse are buried on the hospital web site, and a memorial backyard and constructing have been developed to explain the historical past of the hospital for guests to wander round. It’s also the positioning of the annual commencement ball that the hospital college hosts for the kids – there may be even a purple carpet for them! Danny Thomas’ youngsters are nonetheless concerned with the hospital to at the present time. 


Very similar to the UK, healthcare within the US has many challenges when it comes to provision, entry, and availability. Affordability can be a specific challenge within the US, with many individuals unable to afford medical health insurance, who can then face enormous payments for the price of their care. 

A formidable and admirable side of St. Jude is that the sufferers and their households don’t obtain a single invoice for his or her remedy; additionally they don’t pay for journey, lodging, or meals while they’re staying there. They help sufferers and their households to journey throughout the US (and the world) to obtain the care they want.

Whereas I used to be there, I heard a few guide who had helped some Ukrainian households to journey to St. Jude to obtain the remedy they wanted. So how do they handle to fund this alongside the analysis that they do? 

The ‘ALSAC’ organisation is devoted to the fundraising and monetary provision of the hospital. They host particular fundraising occasions and develop movies, adverts and different assets to assist elevate cash. This tough work helps to offer vital donations from an enormous variety of people and corporations that work carefully with the hospital.

However a lot of the funding really comes from US households donating simply $25. Even through the pandemic, the funding didn’t drop. This permits the hospital to operate at a stage that permits it to be on the cutting-edge of each remedy and analysis. There’s a saying within the medical occupation within the US – “If not at St. Jude, the place?”

The pathology division

As a trainee neuropathologist and pathology fanatic, I used to be wanting to discover the pathology division at St. Jude. It was a really spectacular division; the group of consultants had been all concerned in analysis on the hospital to various levels. The extent of molecular investigations was additionally very spectacular, with the supply of a laboratory that was devoted to sourcing and testing beforehand unused investigative and diagnostic assessments on the hospital. 

Using sequencing was saved very broad, utilizing entire genome sequencing and RNA sequencing ceaselessly, relatively than focused panels. This supplies invaluable knowledge that may be fed into the analysis groups who’re working alongside them. The neuropathology group consisted of 4 consultants, all of which took an curiosity in a specific space of mind tumour analysis together with gliomas, ependymomas or embryonal tumours. 

They offered an enormous set of instances that I used to be in a position to work by, with the assistance of their skilled tuition. In addition they confirmed me some very fascinating present instances the place the prognosis was not obvious. It was very invaluable for me to see the method utilized by them to search out the reply. I used to be additionally in a position to see examples of instances with the phrases: “it’s possible you’ll not ever see this in your profession once more.” 

They’re a referral centre and so are requested for second opinions about quite a lot of completely different mind tumours, which supplies such a invaluable coaching alternative for junior neuropathologists and different pathology trainees. It was additionally spectacular to see the opposite specialties of pathology built-in into the division; microbiologists, veterinary pathologists, mobile pathologists, and neuropathologists had been all thought of to be a part of the identical group, working alongside one another. Integration was a key method on show within the division and this additionally prolonged into their analysis work.

Built-in analysis

Analysis is built-in into the very cloth of the hospital establishment. The groups are at all times searching for alternatives to make use of the information to find new issues about illness and remedy. This begins on the time of biopsy; I spoke with one of many neuropathologists who advised me that in theatre, materials from a mind tumour resection could be provisioned for analysis and properly as diagnostics.

For instance, two cores are used for histological prognosis, two are frozen for molecular testing, two are used to ascertain a patient-derived cell tradition and two are used for single-cell RNA sequencing. These outcomes can then be filtered by and affect the affected person’s remedy in actual time.

The consultants are additionally concerned in numerous streams of analysis in specialist areas and there may be encouragement and assist to permit them to develop their abilities and proposals additional. Built-in roles that includes each medical and tutorial time are a really frequent incidence at St. Jude and are actively inspired; it’s little doubt one of many contributing elements to the success.

International engagement

Looking up at the many national flags displayed in the Danny Thomas Research Tower at St. Jude to represent the diversity of their staffThere may be additionally a robust collaborative ethos with knowledge made publicly out there wherever potential in order that different researchers from world wide can utilise it. There may be additionally continued onsite improvement of the analysis services and assets; they’ve not too long ago opened a brand new ‘Inspiration 4’ constructing offering further analysis area for analysis groups to broaden their very important work. 

St. Jude can be eager to make sure equality of entry to therapies and good observe for sufferers and clinicians world wide. They run a world outreach programme, serving to to provision the implementation of molecular testing for lower-middle earnings international locations and different centres each within the US and world wide. 

This coverage of shared studying is inspiring and helps to make sure that sufferers everywhere in the world can obtain the optimum diagnostic work-up and high quality of care.

Picture: The various flags representing the varied workforce at St. Jude.

Wellbeing and variety

Dr Matthew Clarke pictured with a wellbeing dog, Rosalie, at St. Jude.

St. Jude present that they worth the wellbeing of all who set foot within the hospital, and it’s clear to see from the interactions with employees. Everybody was so welcoming and supportive. As you stroll into the Danny Thomas Analysis Tower and search for, you possibly can see many alternative flags representing the variety of worldwide employees which can be employed there. And, talking of hospital staff, there are three distinctive members of employees; three golden retrievers who’re wellbeing officers of the hospital! 

Two are devoted to the sufferers, however one is for the employees, and I used to be fortunate to satisfy Rosalie on my first day! In case you are having a difficult day, you possibly can put in a request for a go to and Rosalie and her handler will come and say hiya and supply the chance for some canine consolation.

As proven by the mission assertion, the hospital is devoted to making sure equality and inclusion for all and publish a yearly report back to illustrate their ongoing engagement with this, each when it comes to employees and affected person populations. It creates a really secure, open and welcoming surroundings for all.

In addition they attempt to assist the continued training of the sufferers whereas they’re staying within the hospital; I used to be fortunate to be proven the onsite college the place youngsters of various ages could be supplied with quite a lot of instructional alternatives to assist them alongside their ongoing remedy.

Picture: Matt meets one of many wellbeing canine, a Golden Retriever known as Rosalie.

My reflections

The time I spent at St. Jude was very inspiring. Not solely did I study an enormous quantity of neuropathology from among the consultants within the discipline, however I bought to see additional examples of the numerous distinction analysis could make to the outcomes of sufferers.

Very similar to the connection between the ICR and The Royal Marsden, analysis is built-in into affected person care and the diagnostic workflows of St. Jude, which permits cutting-edge developments and discoveries throughout the completely different illness spectra.

This helps each to make sure the proper focused therapies are given to youngsters but in addition helps the event of recent ones. There have been vital breakthroughs in paediatric mind tumour analysis from each organisations, however there stays a lot to find and perceive.

The go to highlighted for me how crucially necessary participating and coaching the following technology of scientists and pathologists is to proceed this proactive method, and I proceed to be extraordinarily grateful to have had the chance to undertake my PhD and continued analysis coaching as a part of the Glioma Staff led by Professor Chris Jones.

Collaboration is vital and we will study so much from one another and completely different establishments. Each organisations additionally work to make sure that the impression of the analysis undertaken is felt by sufferers throughout the worldwide stage, serving to to cut back well being inequalities. 

The open and collaborative nature of St. Jude and its proactive method to coaching additionally mirrors its method to range and inclusion for each sufferers and employees; this fosters a working surroundings that welcomes all and permits progress to be made, rules shared with the ICR and The Royal Marsden.

The funding alternatives offered to the hospital are very important to its work, but in addition highlights how very important funding is for analysis to proceed at tempo. I’ll at all times treasure fond reminiscences of my time spent there.

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