Three University of Colorado Cancer Center investigators are among those receiving grants for their work from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-powered charity dedicated to raising money for the most promising childhood cancer research.baldricks

Every two minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer worldwide. One in five kids diagnosed in the U.S. will not survive, and of those who survive, two-thirds will suffer from long-term effects from the very treatment that saved their life. As the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants, St. Baldrick’s supports the best research no matter where it takes place, giving hope to every child.

James DeGregori, PhD, CU Cancer Center’s associate director for basic research, received $100,000 to investigate improving therapies for acute myeloid leukemia (AML) which represents 20% of childhood leukemias. He says there is a great need for more effective and less toxic therapies for AML.

“Our recent studies have led us to identify a new molecule called MCJ, the loss of which is associated with the resistance of cancers to therapies,” said DeGregori. “We have developed novel drugs that can restore MCJ function in cancer cells. The goal of this proposal is to investigate whether these MCJ activating drugs can be used improve therapies for AML.”

CU Cancer Center member and St. Baldrick’s Scholar Jean Mulcahy Levy, MD, also continues to receive support for her work in pediatric brain tumors with a $115,000 grant.

Cells in the body use many tricks to help them survive. One of these is the process of autophagy (“self-eating” in Greek), which helps cells in times of stress by providing energy and the building blocks they need to survive and grow.  Mulcahy Levy’s project has been able to identify pediatric brain tumors, some of the deadliest forms of childhood cancer, which are very sensitive to blocking this survival mechanism. She also has identified a genetic mutation to ensure the right treatment is getting to the right patients.

Mulcahy Levy says St. Baldrick’s has been essential to her research.

“By providing me with secure funding as an early investigator, I have been able to focus my efforts on establishing myself in a highly competitive field,” said Mulcahy Levy. “Having the support and the endorsement of my project from a nationally recognized organization has also helped me obtain additional support from other, smaller organizations for lab supplies to buy specialty items needed for my project that are not typically stocked in my mentor’s lab. This made me competitive for national funding and has enabled me to obtained highly competitive NIH funding which is essential as I am transitioning into my first faculty position.”

Based on progress to date, CU Cancer Center’s Adam Green, MD, was awarded a new $97,500 grant to fund an additional year of his St. Baldrick’s Fellow award. High-grade gliomas (HGG) are brain tumors that are usually fatal in children.  Green’s work has recently shown promising results using a new medicine called Selinexor in laboratory models of HGG.

Green, named the “Luke’s Army Pediatric Cancer Research Fund St. Baldrick’s Fellow,” believes Selinexor works by restoring the function of proteins that suppress the tumor and acts as the brakes in cancer cells. His team is testing Selinexor for safety in children with various brain and solid tumors, and also is looking at whether the drug can extend survival.  A portion of this grant is named for the Luke’s Army Pediatric Cancer Research Fund, created through the St. Baldrick’s Hero Fund program. Luke Ungerer brought smiles and sunshine wherever he went with plenty to share with everyone. He battled a brain tumor with a positive spirit and inspired others with his courage in his short life. This fund was created to carry on Luke’s legacy of positivity with the hope that it will ripple across many lives for many years to come.

“At St. Baldrick’s, we believe that every child deserves to live a happy and healthy life, free from cancer,” says Kathleen Ruddy, CEO of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. “Although progress has been made, there is still much to be done when it comes to finding cures for the countless subtypes of kids’ cancers and creating less toxic treatments. Kids are special and need to be treated that way. Our donors, volunteers and partners make these grants possible, and we are beyond thankful for each and every one of our supporters for contributing to our mission.”

Grants also were awarded to the following institutions:

  • Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, N.Y.
    • Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
    • Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, Duarte, Calif.
    • Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Mass.
    • Boston University, Boston, Mass.
    • Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio
    • Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute, Beaverton, Ore.
    • Children’s Hospital Boston, Boston, Mass.
    • Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Calif.
    • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa.
    • Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
    • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Mass.
    • Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.
    • Emory University, Atlanta, Ga.
    • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Wash.
    • HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology, Huntsville, Ala.
    • Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
    • Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y.
    • Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Baltimore, Md.
    • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, N.Y.
    • Northwestern University, Chicago, Ill.
    • University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, Cleveland, Ohio
    • Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, Indianapolis, Ind.
    • Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, La Jolla, Calif.
    • Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Seattle, Wash.
    • St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.
    • Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.
    • The Children’s Oncology Group Foundation, Inc., Philadelphia, Pa.
    • The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio
    • The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Ala.
    • The University of Chicago, Chicago, Ill.
    • The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas
    • University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Va.
    • University of California – San Francisco, San Francisco, Calif.
    • University of California – Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.
    • University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, Mich.
    • University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville, Fla.
    • University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
    • University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Pittsburg, Pa.
    • University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.
    • UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, Texas
    • Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Va.
    • Yale University, New Haven, Conn.