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First Evacuated Pediatric Cancer Patient Arrives in U.S.

St. Jude continues to help move hundreds of Ukrainian children with cancer to safety so they can continue treatment.


Memphis, Tennessee, March 22, 2022


Two siblings waving Ukrainian flag





A brother and sister arrive at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis after traveling from Ukraine as a part of the St. Jude Global SAFER Ukraine project. The girl is among the first group of Ukrainian pediatric cancer patients to come to the United States to continue their long-term cancer treatment. SAFER Ukraine is a humanitarian effort launched following the Russian invasion to provide safe passage for childhood cancer patients and their families out of Ukraine.



Four Ukrainian children with cancer and their family members arrived today at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. St. Jude is the first hospital in the U.S. to receive patients from Ukraine. The families travelled aboard a U.S. government-operated medical transport aircraft from Krakow, Poland.


The patients, who are 20 months to eight years in age, will receive their complex medical care at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In addition to cancer treatment, patients will receive trauma-informed psychosocial therapy to address psychological, social, emotional and cultural needs. St. Jude educators are also developing school curriculum for these patients and their siblings.


“The work of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Ukraine reflects the hospital’s ongoing commitment to ensure children with cancer have access to lifesaving care, no matter where they live,” said St. Jude President and CEO James R. Downing, M.D. “Our promise to children with catastrophic diseases extends around the globe, and we are honored to play a part in helping these families move to safety to continue their children’s treatment.”


Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, St. Jude Global—a program designed to improve survival rates of children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases worldwide—launched a humanitarian effort, called SAFER Ukraine (Supporting Action For Emergency Response). Working with Fundacja Herosi in Poland, the Tabletochki Charity Foundation in Ukraine, Polish Society of Pediatric Oncology and Hematology and other foundations and international organizations, St. Jude Global worked to evacuate children with cancer from the war zone and provide them access to medical care so they could continue their cancer treatments. 


“Our ability to quickly help so many children and their families in Ukraine is the work of many partners—individuals and institutions—dedicated to the shared vision of improving the quality of health care delivery and increasing survival rates of children with cancer and blood disorders worldwide,” said Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, M.D., director of St. Jude Global. “While there is more work ahead, we are committed to doing as much as we can as swiftly as possible.”


The St. Jude Global SAFER Ukraine collaborative has assisted more than 600 patients. This includes translating medical records and coordinating convoys to the Unicorn Marian Wilemski Clinic in Poland, a triage center. Here, patients are medically evaluated and families can rest before being transported to an expanding network of the best cancer centers in Europe, Canada and now, the U.S. Organizers have sought to keep patients as close to home as possible to minimize disruption to their lives, but factors such as decreased clinical space availability and advanced patient medical needs can require sending children farther from home.


“Since its founding, the singular mission of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has been to find cures and save children’s lives. As we witness desperately ill children fleeing their homelands in terror, gripping the hands of their mothers, and carrying their diseases with them, we renew our vow to embrace and protect the lives of these helpless children, with the full power of our medical expertise and the unyielding compassion of our hearts,” said St. Jude National Outreach Director Marlo Thomas, daughter of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas.


“St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is the result of millions of people coming together to help find cures and ensure kids with cancer and other life-threatening diseases have a chance to grow up,” said Richard C. Shadyac Jr., president and CEO of ALSAC, the fundraising and awareness organization for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “We are uniquely positioned to help children now and in the future thanks to our supporters and the collective efforts of hundreds of people all over the world working together on initiatives like this one.”


“This is exactly why my father founded St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. When he said no child should die in the dawn of life, he did not mean just America’s children and it is why St. Jude Global exists today. My sisters and I are very proud to carry on his legacy,” said Tony Thomas, St. Jude/ALSAC board member and son of founder Danny Thomas.


St. Jude will evaluate the patients and help families settle into its housing facilities. In respect to this process, no updates will be provided until families have time to acclimate.