Student view:

Bailey Higgins: Motivated to Make a Difference

Sept. 25, 2019

Bailey Higgins graduated this past May from Michigan State University with a degree in kinesiology and is now looking to pursue nursing. She is from Louisville, Kentucky and spent her time at MSU as captain of the field hockey team  In the following student view, Higgins shares her experience with cancer and how it motivated her to make a difference.

After seeing cancer up close, I was inspired to do something about it.

I shaved my head twice to raise money for pediatric cancer research and, as a student at Michigan State University, where I was captain of the field hockey team, I organized a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which supports research into childhood cancers.

Afterward, I learned that research into childhood cancers, including some funded by St. Baldrick’s, was being conducted at my own university. A Google search by my mom turned up an article about André Bachmann, a College of Human Medicine professor whose research into a pediatric cancer called neuroblastoma was supported in part by St. Baldrick’s.

Reading that was very cool to see — someone at my own university doing cancer research. I decided to send Bachmann an email thanking him for his work.

Much of Bachmann’s research has been funded by grants to study a drug called DFMO, originally developed to treat African sleeping sickness, as a therapy for neuroblastoma, a highly aggressive tumor that forms on the nerve cells of young children.

Thanks to his preclinical work, the drug has been tested in several clinical trials. Preliminary data shows that DFMO is fairly effective in keeping neuroblastoma from returning after it goes into remission.

In 2018, St. Baldrick’s awarded Bachmann a $98,000 grant to study combining DFMO with another drug to keep it in a patient’s blood longer, possibly increasing its effectiveness and requiring lower doses.

I was unaware of Bachmann’s research when I organized a fundraiser for St. Baldrick’s as part of the American Cancer Society’s annual Relay for Life on MSU’s campus. I was motivated to help after a high school friend was diagnosed and later died of glioblastoma, a brain tumor.

It was kind of a wakeup call that it can hit anyone anytime. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, where you live or who you are.

The portion of the MSU Relay for Life designated for St. Baldrick’s raised $47,000, and it will continue as an annual event at MSU.

I sent Bachmann an email saying that learning of his research brought me to tears because it was incredible to hear that what I was doing was able to support research here at Michigan State.

“Helping St. Baldrick’s,” I wrote to him, “has changed my life, and I cannot thank you enough for what you are doing. The world is lucky to have someone that has a passion to save lives.”

He said that the email made not just his day, but his year.