Definition: ‘cog’ in the wheel – one who hold a minor but necessary post in a large organization; a small member of a larger organization or system

The Children’s Oncology Group (COG) held their annual Spring meeting last week in Denver. And in spite of a blizzard bomb cyclone threatened to disrupt the efforts of many coming together to fight childhood cancer, I am humbled and honored to have been a mere cog during this meeting of the minds.

During my visit, I was able to present a check for $150,000 to Dr. Peter Adamson and Dr. Will Parsons, finishing the commitment of G9 to support the enrollment of the first 1,000 children on the NCI-COG Pediatric MATCH trial. To date, over 500 children have been screened at 90+ hospitals nationwide testing precision drugs specifically ‘matched’ to target the genetics of a child’s tumor.

The hard reality is that the children being screened are many for whom no other treatment options currently exist. The opportunity enroll in Pediatric MATCH represents another chance…a ray of hope for parents wanting to give their child every possibility of survival. While the expectation is that there will be miracles observed, there is also a reality that the miracle may not be realized by these children but by those who will come after them and benefit from research, progress, and possibility.

As a parent who enrolled my child on 13 different clinical trials during his nearly 7 years of fighting cancer, I understand this reality better than most. Let me be clear, clinical trials are wonderful and I am aghast by those who view novel research as questionable science. After all, this is the practice of medicine. The first successful bone marrow transplant for leukemia involving a child dates back to the 1950s. Science has since advanced with better success rates, such that childhood leukemia is very often curable. This would not have been the case without a parent, desperate to save their child, pursuing every option and pushing back against the medical odds.

Fighting a life-threatening illness involves great inherent cost for a poor outcome, so there is a much higher threshold for risk when the reward is the greatest of all gifts. The science of a wheel tells us we are all just a small, trivial cog in the mechanics of creating forward progress to move along as planned; the science of medicine tells us that each individual cog can make forward progress quicker, healthier, and nobler.

As a society, we must be willing to take these risks and make the world a better place both now and for future generations. I believe change is possible and that science and medicine are poised to help our youngest warriors, but we cannot and will not get there without everyone taking up their role of being a crucial cog in the wheel of hope.