St. Baldrick’s Foundation awards nearly $1 million for childhood cancer research at Stanford

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which holds head-shaving events nationwide to raise money for childhood cancer research, recently awarded nearly $1 million in pediatric cancer research grants to five physician-scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford.

Samuel Cheshier MD, PhD, who was named the “Ty Louis Campbell Foundation St. Baldrick’s Scholar,” was awarded $330,000 to support his research project focused on pediatric brain tumors. Dr. Cheshier and his team have found that a certain protein on all tumors can prevent immune cells from destroying the tumors. From this discovery, the team developed a protein-based therapy that blocks the protein and demonstrates the ability to kill tumor cells in two malignant pediatric brain tumors: pediatric high-grade glioma and medulloblastoma. This research aims to combine this protein-based therapy with other immune system-based anti-tumor proteins to create new targeted therapies for treatment. This grant is named for the Ty Louis Campbell Foundation, a partner of St. Baldrick’s and created in memory of Ty Louis Campbell.

Yoon-Jae Cho, MD, received $230,000 to fund two additional years of funding as the “Miracles for Michael St. Baldrick's Scholar” to study medulloblastoma, the most common brain cancer in children. Standard treatment for children diagnosed with medulloblastoma is surgery and aggressive radiation and chemotherapy, and still, about 35 percent of patients do not survive. The goal of Dr. Cho's research is to develop new therapies that will effectively treat children diagnosed with this lethal disease. This grant is named for the Miracles for Michael Hero Fund created in memory of Michael Orbany, who fought cancer, and honors his tremendous strength to never ever give up.

Michael Wei MD, PhD, was also granted $230,000 to support two additional years of his St. Baldrick’s Scholar award and his research on acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Dr. Wei and his team are using a genetic screen to study a novel candidate drug molecule's mechanism of action as an inhibitor of NAMPT, a key protein that regulates cancer cell metabolism. Their findings show that the molecule is effective against patient leukemia cells. Over the next two years, Dr. Wei will work to better understand how this molecule works to kill leukemia cells and identify what are the genes and pathways involved, in hopes that it can be used to treat and cure patients with ALL.

Erin Breese, M.D., Ph.D., and Liora Schultz, M.D., both received St. Baldrick’s Fellow awards totaling $193,425 to support an optional third year of their fellowships. Dr. Breese is working to understand how a normal blood cell can develop into leukemia. Dr. Breese and her team have created a model that mimics this process and will use the additional funding to study the model to identify new ways to treat patients with this disease. Named the Markit St. Baldrick's Fellow, Dr. Schultz has developed a model to investigate new ways to use the body's own immune system to fight acute myeloid leukemia, a type of leukemia that despite best current treatments has poor outcomes.

Since 2005, St. Baldrick’s has awarded more than $152 million to support lifesaving research, making it the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants.

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