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World Cancer Day Spotlight: Meet Dr. David Poplack

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Dr. David Poplack, above, was honored with the first-ever Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation Childhood Cancer Lifetime Achievement Award at the Foundation’s Lemon Ball in January 2020. 

By: Trish Adkins

The impact of childhood cancer around the world is immense.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that in 2020, there will be over 300,000 new cases of cancer in children. However, the WHO also believes that this number is undercounted, due to many cases of childhood cancer that may go undiagnosed and a lack of comprehensive childhood cancer registries in some countries.

And for children in low-and middle-income countries, that diagnosis comes with a 20% survival rate, while children diagnosed in high-income countries have an 80% cure rate. Yet even with that high figure, cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease for children in the United States. 

Dr. David Poplack, who is the Director of Global Hematology Oncology Pediatric Excellence (HOPE) at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, is working to not only level the playing field by bringing more cures to children around the world, he is working to end childhood cancer completely. 

“We don’t want to grow ourselves as a field. We want to put ourselves out of business. That is what this is all about. And nothing would make me happier, if tomorrow we didn’t see pediatric cancer anymore,” said Dr. Poplack. 

Dr. Poplack was honored with the first-ever Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) Childhood Cancer Lifetime Achievement Award at the Foundation’s Lemon Ball in January 2020. 

 

For 25 years, Dr. Poplack served as the Director of Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers, growing the program from seven faculty members to nearly 200. Dr. Poplack's impact on the education of pediatric oncologists is immense. In fact, he wrote the book on pediatric oncology. His textbook The Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology, currently in its 7th edition, has graced the desks of nearly every pediatric oncologist ever trained. 

 In July 2018, Dr. Poplack transitioned his role to serve as the Director of Global HOPE. The program is a comprehensive capacity-building program that works to improve pediatric cancer treatment in sub-Saharan Africa, a region that has a nearly 90% mortality rate for children diagnosed with pediatric cancer. 

Global HOPE has a presence in eight African countries, has trained more than 4,000 local health care professionals and has treated over 12,000 patients to date. 

Dr. Poplack’s leadership has also been a guiding force for the ALSF research grant program. He served as a longtime member of ALSF’s Scientific Advisory Board as well, reviewing project proposals and guiding the development of the Foundation's grant program. He is currently a member of the Crazy 8 Initiative, providing his expertise and leadership to the team of ALSF-funded researchers working to catalyze clinical trials. 

Dr. Poplack continues to mentor and guide pediatric oncologists in their careers through the ALSF POST grant program, which provides grant funding to student researchers and helps launch their pediatric oncology career. 

Learn more about ALSF’s innovative research grant programs and join the movement to cure childhood cancer here.