Pediatric cancer research gets a $32.2 million boost from Texas-sized disco benefit for Texas Children's Cancer Center

HOUSTON - (Feb. 6, 2012) - A Texas-sized disco dance party was the backdrop Saturday night for a benefit that raised $32.26 million for pediatric cancer research at Texas Children's Cancer Center, the #1 pediatric cancer center in Texas as ranked by U.S. News World Report.

A record-breaking fundraiser for the hospital, Dr. David Poplack, director of Texas Children's Cancer Center, described the sum as "truly transformational" for the center's pediatric cancer research initiatives, many of which focus on genomic research.

An Evening with Disco Legends," presented by Wells Fargo, featured performances by disco greats Gloria Gaynor, The Pointer Sisters and Nile Rodgers and drew over 1,100 supporters to the George R. Brown Convention Center to dance beneath the eight-foot disco ball and roving multi-colored lighting effects.

The benefit was conceived and underwritten by well- known Texas philanthropists and international ballroom dancing champions Lester and Sue Smith, who matched every donation through The Lester and Sue Smith Foundation, making a total contribution of $16.6 million. By underwriting the event, the Smiths enabled 100% of the proceeds to go directly to Texas Children's Cancer Center.

"We are so grateful to the Smiths for their outstanding philanthropic leadership and to all who supported this remarkable event," said Poplack, who is Elise C. Young Professor of Pediatric Oncology at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), academic partner of Texas Children's Hospital. "We are confident that the cancer research breakthroughs made possible by these funds will positively impact children from around the globe."

Poplack stated that the monies raised will dramatically accelerate ongoing research projects such as using highly sophisticated genomic technologies to analyze tumor samples from pediatric cancer patients in order to identify the specific genetic mutations responsible for the development and growth of the tumors. "Using advanced genomic analytical approaches, we're focused on identifying the causes of pediatric cancers, how they progress and why they are responsive or unresponsive to treatment," he said. "The result of this research, done in collaboration with Dr. Richard Gibbs, director of the Human Genome Sequencing Center at Baylor College of Medicine, will lead to the development of new therapies that are more personalized, more effective and less toxic."

Texas oilman, two-time cancer survivor and author of the book "You Gotta Dance Like No One's Watching," Lester Smith and wife, Sue, are familiar figures in the fight against cancer. This is the Smiths' second consecutive year to chair the annual Texas Children's Cancer Center benefit and match all donations. This two-time commitment has generated over $41 million in donations to the cancer hospital, with over $21 million coming from The Lester and Sue Smith Foundation.

"Sue and I are passionate about finding a cure for cancer and are so grateful to everyone who generously joined with us in this effort to benefit children everywhere," said Lester Smith. "We are confident that the leading-edge research at Texas Children's Cancer Center will bring us closer to a cure for pediatric cancer."

Prior cancer-related contributions by The Lester and Sue Smith Foundation include $15 million to Harris Country Hospital District to establish an outpatient cancer treatment facility for the medically underserved and a $30 million challenge gift to BCM for breast cancer and genomic research. The couple is currently donating up to $1 million in matching grants to 30 breast cancer organizations through their Pink Well Challenge (

Touted as "Houston's largest ever disco dance party," KPRC-TV anchor Dominique Sachse served as mistress of ceremonies for the evening's festivities across three stages and surprised guests with a special dance performance. New York's DJ Ultragrrrl spun classic disco mixes for the revelers between each live performance.

The nation's largest pediatric cancer center, children come to Texas Children's Cancer Center from 35 states and 26 countries for state-of-the art treatments, many of which are unavailable elsewhere. Texas Children's Cancer Center is a joint program of Texas Children's Hospital and BCM and is the pediatric program of BCM's NCI-designated Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center. To learn more, visit

About Texas Children’s Hospital

Texas Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit health care organization, is committed to creating a healthier future for children and women throughout the global community by leading in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked as the best children’s hospital in Texas, and among the top in the nation, Texas Children’s has garnered widespread recognition for its expertise and breakthroughs in pediatric and women’s health. The hospital includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; the Feigin Center for pediatric research; Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston; and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands, a second community hospital planned to open in 2017. The organization also created the nation’s first HMO for children, has the largest pediatric primary care network in the country and a global health program that’s channeling care to children and women all over the world. Texas Children’s Hospital is affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine. For more information, go to Get the latest news by visiting the online newsroom and Twitter at