Two pediatric oncologists from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have won grants from the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness and funds for childhood cancer research. Dr. Eric Chow will receive 1.2 million to lead a consortium study; St. Baldrick's Scholar Dr. Phoenix Ho will receive a $330,000 Career Development Award.
Chow, of the Clinical Research Division and the Cancer Epidemiology Research Cooperative in the Public Health Sciences Division, treats pediatric cancer patients at Seattle Children's. He also helps lead the hospital's Cancer Survivor Program. Chow's national study will seek to follow-up on 1,000 patients previously treated for leukemia and lymphoma, who were part of several Oncology Group studies at Children's that randomized children to receive dexrazoane. Dexrazoxane has beeen shown to minimize cardiac toxicity in adult cancer patients, but data in children have been more limited.
"Many children now survive their cancer but then develop other problems, later in life as a result of their cancer treatment, like early heart disease," Chow said. "Through this study, we hope to find out if there's a way to better protect children's hearts while they receive treatment for cancer, and, by doing so, ensure that not only do they overcome cancer, but are able to lead a long and healthy life afterward."
Ho is a research associate in the Clinical Research Division's Meshinchi Lab, where he focuses on the study of molecular alterations in pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML) with the goal of defining new prognostic markers for risk stratification, and identifying new targets of therapy. Ho is also an attending physician at Seattle Children's, where he treats children with leukemia. His award will further his study in exploiting WT1 genomic alterations for target identification and MRD monitoring in pediatric AML.
"Through the support of the St. Baldrick's Foundation, I'll be able to pursue in-depth studies of the WT1 gene," said Ho of the three-year grant, which has an option of a two-year extension. "Many extra copies of the WT1 gene are present in most cases of pediatric AML when the disease is diagnosed. My work focuses on measuring copy numbers of the WT1 gene in patient blood samples after chemotherapy. The award will allow me to translate these laboratory studies into ways to better treat our patients in the clinic. We hope to prove that measuring WT1 copy numbers after chemotherapy will provide us with a method for monitoring the leukemia's response to treatment, as well as providing a marker for the early detection of relapse. Based on what we learn from these studies, our goal is to design of new treatments which specifically target cells with high amounts of WT1, turning this leukemia marker into a target of treatment."
Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among children in the U.S. However, only 3 percent of all federal cancer research funding targets pediatric cancer research. This year the Southern California-based St. Baldrick's awarded more than $22.5 million in new grants supporting such research in the U.S.
"It has been a great boon to pediatric oncology research that we have received such dedicated support from the St. Baldrick's Foundation, Chow said.