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American Reinvestment and Recovery Act

Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments (TARGET)

What is the TARGET Initiative?

The TARGET (Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Treatments) Initiative seeks to use the power of modern genomics research technologies to identify new therapeutic targets for childhood cancers so more effective treatments for these diseases can be developed more quickly.

What are the goals of the TARGET Initiative?

The ultimate goal of the TARGET Initiative is to reduce the devastating burden of cancer for children and their families. An intermediate goal is to facilitate the discovery of new therapeutic targets in pediatric cancers and translate these discoveries into clinical applications.

What will TARGET mean for children with cancer and their families?

Over the past 30 to 40 years, the world has witnessed dramatic improvements the short-term and long-term survival of children with cancer. These improvements are the result of more effective chemotherapy drugs and better management of pediatric cancers. More recently, however, the rate of improvement in childhood cancer outcomes has slowed. While the medical community has seen the success of molecularly targeted agents for some forms of cancer, such as Gleevec for chronic myelogenous leukemia and gastrointestinal stromal tumors, the targeted therapy revolution has had, thus far, only a limited impact in the childhood cancer setting.

The TARGET Initiative is helping to accelerate the pace by which therapeutic targets are identified in pediatric cancers and is facilitating the development of new, more-effective treatment plans. Moreover, TARGET is prioritizing the evaluation in childhood cancers of experimental drugs tested in adult clinical trials, with the goal of identifying specific drugs that have a greater potential for success and fewer side effects in pediatric cancer patients.

How much funding did this program receive through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and how will these funds be used?

The TARGET Initiative received $25 million in ARRA funding. These funds will be used to expand the TARGET Initiative beyond its current focus on acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and neuroblastoma.

The expansion funded by ARRA will:

  • Allow the comprehensive molecular characterization of at least five pediatric cancers for which current treatments are inadequate. 
  • Enable further progress toward pinpointing addressable causes of treatment failure in children with ALL or neuroblastoma.
  • Accelerate the pace of clinical research by several years for the cancers studied and allow new treatment opportunities to be discovered at a faster pace.   

How is this program helping to stimulate the economy?

Characterizing each extra cancer in TARGET requires additional highly trained technicians and at least partial support for more Ph.D. laboratory researchers, bioinformaticians, biostatisticians, and clinical researchers.  It is estimated that at least 32 direct jobs will be created or preserved through ARRA funding.