Who We Are
The Meredith A. Cowden Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that was started by Gerald and Marti Cowden in 2007, six years after their daughter, Meredith, received a Bone Marrow Transplant for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) and subsequently developed Graft vs . Host Disease (GvHD). The foundation was created to increase education and support for patients, as well as to promote research and novel treatments for GvHD.
Our Mission & Commitments
The mission of the Meredith A. Cowden Foundation is to increase the number of leukemia survivors, to raise awareness of the blood cancers and help people living with the treatment of them, to improve the post transplant quality of life for bone marrow transplant recipients, and to support the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
The Meredith A. Cowden Foundation is committed to:
- Providing funding for research to prevent, treat, and cure Graft vs. Host Disease (GVHD).
- Educating physicians, researchers, patients, and the general public concerning GVHD and late effects of transplants, their prevention, treatment, and cure.
- Providing general information concerning the blood cancers and their treatment, with a special emphasis on the treatment of leukemia with bone marrow and stem cell transplantation.
- Providing resources to support programs designed to enhance the quality of life of patients and their families during treatment.
What Is Graft vs. Host Disease
Graft vs. Host Disease (GvHD) is a common complication after a stem cell or bone marrow transplant from another person. Immune cells (white blood cells) in the donated marrow or stem cells (the graft) recognize the recipient (the host) as “foreign.” The transplanted immune cells then attack the host’s cells. GvHD presents itself in many ways — some acute, some chronic, sadly sometimes fatally. An estimated 50 percent of all leukemia and other blood cancer patients contract GvHD following their transplant. A prominent physician once stated that with a Bone Marrow Transplant a patient trades one disease that will kill you (leukemia) for another disease that might kill you (GvHD).
Why We Are Important
Every year approximately 50,000 patients undergo a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Approximately 50% survive. Of those survivors, approximately 50 % are diagnosed with Graft vs. Host Disease (There are currently 100,000 survivors in the U.S.)
There is not yet a cure for GvHD. Treatment for the disease involves a series of immunosuppressant drugs, which in and of themselves have significant side effects and can do long-term damage to the patient’s body. For example, a very common side effect is cataracts, regardless of a patient’s age. By raising funding and awareness around GvHD research, we’re championing new treatments to help improve the lives of the thousands of people living with this debilitating disease.
The Meredith A. Cowden Foundation is also a founding member of the GVHD Alliance, a collaboration of six organizations with the aim of (1) supporting those affected by GvHD and (2) understanding and address ing unmet needs, as well as (3) providing helpful resources to create change.
The Cowden Foundation received the 2021 ASTCT Public Service Award as well as the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Lifeblood Award in 2019. Members of the Cowden Foundation participate in patient advocacy panels for pharmaceutical companies and organizational steering committees focused on research and treatment of the disease.
What We Do
The GVHD National Symposium. Every year since 2010, the Meredith A. Cowden Foundation has sponsored the GvHD National Symposium. The Symposium Planning Committee consists of physicians from the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Moffitt Cancer Center, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, The Ohio State University, and the National Institutes of Health. As a committee, they recruit research doctors to present information and findings about the latest research and procedures to treat chronic GvHD. In addition, we invite speakers to make presentations to patients, their caregivers, and families. These presentations provide advice and help in coping with the trials and tribulations of living with GvHD. Please see the brochure for our 2023 seminar, which will be held in Cleveland at the Embassy Suites on Rockside Road on October 13, 2023.
The GVHD Patient Advocacy Symposium. For the first time this year, we are hosting a separate Symposium specifically designed for patients, their families, and their caregivers. This Symposium will not only have speakers presenting up-to-date information to help patients with quality-of-life solutions; we will also have additional activities around breathing techniques, Tai Chi, and art therapy workshops. This Symposium will be held concurrently with the GVHD Symposium.
GvHD Patient Advocacy. The Meredith A. Cowden Foundation contributes to the development of effective treatments and approaches to working with those in the GvHD community through public speaking, presentations at conferences, collaborating with like-minded organizations, and judging awards for development of noveltherapeutics for patients. Meredith Cowden led the 2020 NIH Consensus Consortium Patient Advocacy Summit, which identified the unmet needs and barriers to, as well as potential paths to, improved quality of life for those living with GvHD. She has also spoken in various formats regarding patient advocacy, education, and empowerment.
Funding. We provide research grants and additional funding to organizations such as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the National Bone Marrow Transplant LINK (MBNTlink), the Blood and Marrow Transplant InfoNet (BMTinfonet), and others. Prior to 2010, we provided funding for research to several major research hospitals as well.
Looking To The Future
Patient Advocacy Program. The Meredith A. Cowden Foundation is growing and developing new programs and ideas. We are working to increase our reach through the development of a Patient Advocacy Program with the goal of increasing connection within the GvHD community, as well as providing educational and supportive opportunities for patients, family members, non- professional caregivers, and friends.
Health and Wellness Program for Patients. Additionally, we are currently developing a patient wellness program, called The Cowden Chasers. This program is designed to provide information and resources for holistic health and wellness for those who live with GvHD through exercise programs, nutritional information, resources, and support related to mental and emotional wellbeing, as well as stress reduction techniques and self-care.
Funding & Support Opportunities
Our main source of funding comes from pharmaceutical companies. We also receive support from corporations, hospitals, and individuals. We are currently requesting sponsorship to grow our Foundation, continue the Symposia, and expand our other activities.
We appreciate support in all forms. If there is an area of our work that resonates with you, please let us know and we will set up a discussion meeting to explore our potential collaboration and support opportunities. We can be reached at 330-864-1978 or email@example.com.
Gerald W. Cowden
Cleveland attorney Gerald Cowden, together with his family and a core group of dedicated supporters, founded the Meredith A. Cowden Foundation in 2007, after his daughter was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). In its five years of existence, the foundation has raised more than $250,000 for research and patient funding.