CURE Childhood Cancer Announces $1 Million in New Research Grants to the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory University

Each year with the funds we raise, CURE Childhood Cancer is committed to supporting promising research which we believe will positively impact children with cancer. year after year, we work directly with doctors and scientists to identify promising ways to target cancer cells which could lead to improved treatments and ultimately cures for children with cancer. While we know that we alone cannot cure childhood cancer, by forming partnerships like ours with the Aflac Cancer Center and Emory University and working closely together, we can continue to advance toward a cure.

“The work we are supporting here is part of a very big picture,” explains CURE’s Executive director, Kristin Connor. “It’s a single piece in the overall puzzle. We are doing our part to get the pieces to fit together.”

More than 12,700 children and adolescents less than age 20 will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States this year. The cancers affecting children have in common the alteration of cells at a molecular and genetic level which causes the cells to continue their multiplication. Signals and pathways exist that allow these cells to exploit their own survival. The altered cells live on, replicating, resulting in tumor growth that can cause pain, suffering and death. Twenty one percent (21%) of children diagnosed with cancer are not cured by today’s methods of treatment. CURE Childhood Cancer is working to make a difference for these children by exploring newer methods of treatment and, hopefully one day, prevention. We are also very concerned with improving on the ways to cure children and reducing the toxicity of treatments so that the quality of life of young survivors with a lifetime in front of them is protected and left in tact.

CURE’s 2009-2010 research grants are aimed at driving research which targets cancers at a level well beneath that of poisoning the cell. The research we are supporting moves much deeper into the genetic coding and the molecular structures of these diabolical cells.

Our 2009-2010 research initiative reflects the layers of science that are applied to our understanding of cancer cells and our best means to try to outwit them. CURE is partnering with 6 scientists to aim arrows not at a single target but at several, knowing that each effort puts us further on the road to changing a poor survival rate for a child with cancer to an outstanding one.

Specifically, the projects that make up our 2009-2010 Childhood Cancer Research Initiative are:

1. Exploiting a gene [P53] that should function to protect against the formation of cancer cells but instead allows them to form. This is done by inhibiting proteins that change the functional abilities of P53, and testing that against medulloblastoma, a childhood brain tumor. (Dr. Craig Castelino, $159,213)

2. Chemically altering a peptide so that it can be used to kill neuroblastoma cells. (Dr. Kelly Goldsmith, $89,980)

3. Developing new drug targets against leukemia by outwitting a protein that causes drug resistance in leukemia cells. (Dr. Lubring Gu, $115,991)

4. Discovering new agents against childhood brain tumors by manipulating the proteins that the tumors use to resist the effects of chemotherapy. (Dr. Tobey Macdonald, $99,998)

5. Modifying immune cells to survive longer as potential anticancer agents. (Dr. Trent Spencer, $130,000)

6. Studying an agent, berberine [BBR] that could kill cancer cells that have been chemotherapy resistant. (Dr. Muxiang Zhou, $212,996)

A common thread of these projects is the study of resistance to currently available chemotherapy and the means to exploit the proteins that allow for that resistance. These efforts aim directly at the 21% of children who are not presently being cured. Use of different tumor cell lines allows the scientists to learn if the tumor type has unique resistance characteristics and to expand their findings across several tumor types.

CURE supports research at the deepest level of genetic and molecular science. Our fervent hope is that step-by-step we will outwit, modify, and target cancer in children right out of existence.

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