Childhood Cancer Research Grants to the University of Chicago Medicine

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven and donor-centered charity dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research, has awarded $186,906 in pediatric cancer research grants to a physician-researcher and a consortium at the University of Chicago Medicine.

Kenan Onel, Md, PhD

Kenan Onel, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics and director of the pediatric familial cancer clinic at the University of Chicago Medicine, received $90,400 to support his study on survivors of pediatric Hodgkin lymphoma.

Onel’s team discovered that genetic variants regulating one gene are both very common and strongly associated with increased risk for radiation-induced cancers. The team is working to determine how radiation activates this gene, how the gene directs the response to radiation, and how the variants alter this response.

“We hope that these results will lead to new ways to identify children at risk for radiation-induced cancers, or new drugs to prevent this devastating late effect of radiation exposure,” said Dr. Onel.

St. Baldrick’s also awarded an extended $96,506 consortium grant to support the ongoing work of the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group (INRG) Task Force, conducted by 4 cooperative pediatric clinical research groups from North America, Europe,JapanandAustralia.

Susan Cohn, MD

The team, led by Susan Cohn, MD, professor of pediatrics and director of clinical sciences at theUniversity of Chicago Medicine, is collecting clinical information on more than 11,500 children with neuroblastoma from around the world.

It will have the capability of linking the genomic data that have been generated by numerous laboratories and other databases.

The additional funding from St. Baldrick’s Foundation will be used to add clinical information on neuroblastoma patients and to establish links with existing neuroblastoma genomic databases. The team has recently added data from 1,500 children treated on Children’s Oncology Group clinical trials to the database and plans to add additional patients from Europe and Japan soon.

The clinical behavior of neuroblastoma is highly associated with the genetic makeup of the tumor.

More recent studies have demonstrated that germline genetic variables contribute to the risk of developing neuroblastoma, as well as tumor biology. Cohn and colleagues have recently reported racial disparities in outcome in neuroblastoma, and studies indicate germline genetic factors contribute to the poor outcome seen in the black cohort.

“Currently clinical information about how a child with neuroblastoma responds to therapy and information about the biology of the tumor are stored in separate places,” Cohn explained. “The INRG database will link this information from children around the world. Having the ability to link genomic and clinical information will enhance our understanding of why some tumors do not respond to treatment and may ultimately lead to more effective therapy.”

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