Foundation Grants: Bear Necessities Helps Advance Diagnosis and Treatment of Childhood Cancer

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Four researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine were awarded a total of $160,000 this summer from the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation for their efforts to advance diagnosis and treatment of childhood cancers.

The grant awards of $40,000 each will support the following projects:

Alejandro Sweet-Cordero, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, received support for his efforts to better understand a rare type of pediatric cancer called Ewing’s sarcoma. Ewing’s sarcoma is caused by a type of genetic change called a translocation. This translocation results in the production of a new protein called EWS/FLI-1.

The research of Bryan Mitton, MD, PhD, clinical instructor in pediatrics, focuses on acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a challenging-to-treat fast-growing cancer that starts inside bone marrow. Mitton seeks to understand the aberrant signaling — the communication system that governs basic cellular activities — that characterizes high-risk AML.

Marius Wernig, MD, PhD, assistant professor of pathology, will use the funding to further investigate a deadly brain cancer called glioma. Existing treatments for gliomas, or cancers of the glial progenitor cells in the brain, are not very effective and can have bad side effects, particularly in children. Wernig and his colleagues will attempt to identify key molecular changes that make normal glial progenitor cells cancerous, and target those, with the goal to develop more effective therapies with fewer side effects.

Viola Caretti, MD, PhD, postdoctoral scholar, received the award for her efforts to research high-grade gliomas (HGG), the leading cause of brain-tumor-related death in children. Caretti plans to study the role that neuronal firings play in influencing the growth of HGG cells. Ultimately, she wants to better understand the interaction between neurons and tumor cell growth so she can target this interaction and develop new treatments for HGG.

“We are proud to support researchers throughout the country who are making meaningful advancements toward finding a cure and therapies for pediatric cancers,” said Susan Mura, director of finance at the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. “The work being done by researchers at Stanford University is critical to helping us fulfill our mission to eliminate pediatric cancer and provide hope and support for those touched by it.”

Chicago-based Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation, whose mission is to eliminate pediatric cancer and provide hope and support to those who are touched by it, has awarded six grants to Stanford researchers since 2007.