Turning Pain Into Purpose: The Brittney Project

In August 2023, the cc-TDI team was introduced to the Bliss family, a vibrant and loving family who wanted to make a difference in the world of childhood cancer research in memory of their daughter, Brittney. Having bravely battled the tragic reality of embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma, this rare and underserved cancer took hold of Brittney just weeks before her 4th birthday. And despite a valiant year-long battle involving chemotherapy and proton radiation, the cancer spread, leaving the Bliss family with limited options and a heartbreaking prognosis. 

Brittney with her Family at Disney World

Brittney’s story was felt throughout her Western Massachusetts community, as friends and family rallied around the Bliss family in support of their ongoing struggle and loss. A GoFundMe campaign was initially set up in May 2022 as a way to meet the needs of the Bliss family. Thanks to the outpouring of generosity, reaching the $25,000 milestone served as an important catalyst for their family wanting to do more, particularly in the area of research.

Brittney’s mother Elena recalls her first meeting with the research team at cc-TDI: “We were introduced to cc-TDI during a very difficult time, having just lost Brittney. However, we knew that we wanted to turn our pain into a purpose. We wanted to be a voice and advocate for change in the pediatric cancer community.” This commitment to advocacy is at the heart of cc-TDI’s mission, where families like the Bliss’ are not just donors, they become partners. 

Dr. Keller, cc-TDI’s Scientific Director and visionary, worked to learn of Brittney and understand the research goals of the Bliss family. Elena shares, “Charles was so welcoming and supportive; he truly made us feel connected and seen. As we met more of the team, we continued to feel this sense of family. We weren’t just a number or donor but a true partner.” 

In memory of Brittney, the Bliss family launched The Brittney Project, a heartfelt initiative aimed at directly supporting embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma research at cc-TDI. This project furthers cc-TDI’s previous work with Novartis in which 640,000 drugs were screened against rhabdomyosarcoma leading to three embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma-specific compounds. The Brittney Project allows cc-TDI to begin validating these three compounds on a broad range of different embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma cell lines.  

Describing the project creation, Elena explains, “Having the ability to create The Brittney Project and directly support Rhabdomyosarcoma research meant the world to us. cc-TDI gives our family a voice and hope for the future. A voice to say where our donations go and the hope that this research will present a new understanding of this cancer that will lead to new treatment options and ultimately a cure.” 

As we remember Brittney and honor her life and legacy through The Brittney Project, let us stand united in the pursuit of a future where no family must endure the heartbreak of losing a child to cancer.  This holiday season, we ask that you consider making a year-end gift in support of our research and provide help so we can offer science-justified hope to children and families like the Bliss’. With your help, we envision a world where all cancers are universally survivable.

#GivingBackChildhood #TheBrittneyProject 

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