October 31, 2011 — The Cancer Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia is proud to announce two new grants totaling $455,582 from The St. Baldrick's Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research.
Worldwide, more than 160,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year, and it remains the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States. With only 4 percent of all federal cancer research funding dedicated to pediatric cancer research, St. Baldrick’s Foundation grant funds are critical to continue the battle against this devastating disease.
Grant recipients and their research
The two grant awardees are Vandana Batra, MD, who received a $205,582 Fellow award, and Jill Ginsberg, MD, who will lead a study funded by a $250,000 Consortium Research Grant.
Seeking more effective treatment for neuroblastoma
Dr. Batra is one of 13 new St. Baldrick’s Fellows in 2011. Her research will concentrate on developing a more effective treatment for neuroblastoma, a tumor of the developing nervous system that accounts for 10 percent of deaths from childhood cancer. She is researching a novel form of radiotherapy — a method of delivering precise doses of a radioactive chemical that selectively kills tumor cells. In particular, she is investigating a chemical called 211At-MABG, which emits radioactive alpha particles. These high-energy particles are expected to be even more effective in killing neuroblastoma cells, while minimizing damage to healthy cells, when compared to an existing radiotherapy, called 131I-MIBG, which delivers beta particles to treat cancer.
“My goal is to demonstrate that targeted therapy with 211At-MABG has markedly superior efficacy in destroying tumor cells in preclinical models, so that we’ll have evidence to support using 211At-MABG in clinical trials in children with neuroblastoma,” said Dr. Vandana Batra, pediatric hematology/oncology fellow at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Preserving fertility in young male cancer patients
The Consortium Research Grant will support the Testicular Cryopreservation Consortium (TCC). This collaborative group of scientists addresses the fact that young boys who receive life-saving cancer treatments before they reach puberty may have an extremely high risk of infertility as adults. Four years ago, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia became the first hospital to offer patients and families the option of preserving the boys’ immature testicular tissue for possible future use in rescuing their fertility. The new grant will allow this experimental program in fertility preservation to expand to other pediatric hospitals, increasing the amount of tissue available for progress in research.
“We are grateful to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for enabling us to expand our program into a model for other children’s hospitals,” said Jill P. Ginsberg MD, a pediatric oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the grant’s principal investigator. “Based on previous studies and our own research showing that families appreciated having this option available for their sons, our hope is that advances in laboratory science and medicine will make it possible for these boys to achieve fertility when they are ready to begin a family.”
Grants part of continuing research support from the St. Baldrick's Foundation
These grants are part of more than $19.6 million in new grants awarded by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, bringing the total to more than $21 million awarded for the fiscal year. All funding applications were peer-reviewed by leading pediatric cancer researchers who volunteer their time and expertise and make funding recommendations to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s board of directors. The Foundation’s next round of grants will be announced in November.
In 2011, more than 10 St. Baldrick’s events were held in Philadelphia, where more than 300 volunteers shaved their heads to help Conquer Kids’ Cancer!
About the St. Baldrick's Foundation efforts
St. Baldrick’s signature head-shaving events are the fastest growing, volunteer-driven fundraising opportunity benefitting childhood cancer research. In 2011, the Foundation’s volunteers and supporters have led the way to raising a record-breaking $27.4 million by organizing more than 1,000 St. Baldrick’s events and shaving more than 44,000 heads to stand in solidarity with kids with cancer.
About the Cancer Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia has one of the largest pediatric cancer programs in the United States. Its large basic and clinical research programs are particularly strong in pediatric neuro-oncology, neuroblastoma, leukemia and lymphoma, and sarcomas. Of all pediatric institutions, Children's Hospital enrolls the most patients in national clinical trials, working in close collaboration with national organizations such as the Children's Oncology Group. Physicians at Children's Hospital have had pioneering roles in developing international standards for diagnosing and treating neuroblastoma, and in developing programs for survivors of childhood cancer.