The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven and donor-centered charity dedicated to funding childhood cancer research, has awarded more than $1.1 million to University of Colorado Cancer Center investigators. The awards are part of more than $22 million in new funding for pediatric cancer research grants from St. Baldrick’s.Print

A child is diagnosed with cancer every three minutes worldwide.  One of five children diagnosed in the United States will not survive. Of those that survive, 80 percent will have severe or life-threatening conditions as a result of treatment. That is why the St. Baldrick’s Foundation continues its commitment to fund the most promising research initiatives to find cures and provide kids with less toxic treatments, ensuring a healthier life for survivors.

A team of researchers led by CU Cancer Center investigator Stephen Hunger, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, and director of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Hospital Colorado, received a $960,606 consortium research grant.

Hunger’s team has identified a subset of childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) with specific genetic abnormalities in the leukemia cells (Ph-like ALL) that has poor survival. Some Ph-like ALL patients have genetic abnormalities that make their leukemia cells sensitive to a targeted therapy that has fewer side effects than chemotherapy.

“CU Cancer Center and Children’s Hospital Colorado are collaborating on a large national clinical trial conducted by the Children’s Oncology Group to identify which children with ALL are more likely to respond to the targeted therapy. The medication, along with chemotherapy, may improve the likelihood of survival,” said Hunger.  “Without funding from St. Baldrick’s, we would not be able to undertake this trial of targeted therapies to find out whether we can improve survival for these children with Ph-like ALL. “

Jennifer Salstrom, MD, PhD, was awarded a $175,617 St. Baldrick’s Fellow award to develop new, less toxic and more effective therapies for acute myelogenous leukemia (AML).  Salstrom hopes to use models to determine exactly which therapies will work best for which patients. This approach will allow researchers to treat each child’s leukemia in the most effective and safest way possible.

Earlier this year, CU Cancer Center received a Summer Fellow Grant from St. Baldrick’s. Five thousand dollars was awarded to the Cancer Research Summer Fellowship Program. The award supports two students who are working in pediatric cancer projects in the summer fellowship program.

One of the projects focuses on the role of antibody and immune therapies for glioblastomas (GBMs). The other explores the biochemical pathways of melanoma predisposition. The number of severe sunburns during childhood is a major risk factor for melanoma development in later life. Correlations between childhood sun exposures and mole production will be studied.