$5 Million in Grants Awarded to Researchers Studying Children's Cancer
CureSearch for Children's Cancer Announces Three Recipients of Acceleration Initiative Grand Challenge Grants

For Immediate Release:
September 19, 2013
2:00 PM
Erica Neufeld

Bethesda, MD - CureSearch for Children's Cancer this week announced the recipients of its Acceleration Initiative grants, awarding $5 million to children's cancer researchers studying areas critical to achieving breakthroughs in treatments and with the potential to reach patients in early clinical trials within three years. New treatments are important because 40,000 children undergo cancer treatment each year, and cancer remains the leading cause of death by disease in children.

"Working with our Scientific Advisory Council, we identified three grand challenges that represent research barriers that need to be overcome in order to truly advance the field and create a lasting impact for kids with cancer," says Laura Thrall, president and CEO of CureSearch. "We are thrilled to be funding research with patient-centric outcomes that not only addresses unmet needs but also uses innovative and novel approaches to do so."

The first 'grand challenge' invited investigators to develop novel approaches to treating metastatic disease (when cancer spreads to new locations in the body), with the potential for broad applicability to multiple cancers and/or patient populations, that have a high probability of clinical application within 3 years.

A team at Huntsman Cancer Institute that includes Mary Beckerle, PhD, Steve Lessnick, MD, PhD, Sunil Sharma, MD, and Alana Welm, PhD received a $1.73 million grant to test a novel targeted treatment for Ewing sarcoma that hopefully will disrupt the cancer's growth and ability to spread. It is hypothesized that Ewing sarcoma spreads because the tumor cells have lost their ability to be tied together in the bone matrix where they begin. In a preclinical trial, Dr. Beckerle and her team will use a mouse model of metastatic Ewing sarcoma that mirrors the cancer in humans to test a small molecule targeted therapy they developed for its success in preventing the spread of cancer and toxicity of the treatment. If both are successful, the study will then move to a Phase I clinical trial in patients.

The second grand challenge asked researchers to develop technologies or therapeutic approaches to overcoming drug resistance of refractory cancers (i.e. newly diagnosed or relapsed) that have a high probability of clinical application within 3 years.

High-risk medulloblastoma is a type of childhood brain cancer that is very difficult to treat. A team of international researchers led by William Weiss, MD, PhD at the University of California, San Francisco, was awarded a $1.88 million grant to investigate their hypothesis that drugs that reprogram (normalize) the epigenome will block the inappropriate activation or silencing of DNA, thus normalizing gene expression. If this occurs, it will lead to improved outcomes for patients who do not respond to treatment.

The third grand challenge focused researchers on developing approaches to tackling critical scientific and therapeutic roadblocks that, if successful, will accelerate the delivery of promising therapeutic interventions.

A research team at Stanford University led by Drs. Kathleen Sakamoto and Irv Weissman received $1.37 million to conduct a Phase I clinical trial at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital to study whether CD47 antibody is safe and effective in children with relapsed cancer. CD47 is a cell surface protein that is overproduced in many types of childhood cancers, and prevents scavenger cells, known as macrophages, from killing tumor cells. The hope is that the CD47 antibody will boost the body's immune system by allowing the macrophages to "eat" the tumor cells, and prevent cancer from growing. If successful, this study will lead to a new approach to treat childhood cancer that will improve both the overall survival and quality of life for patients.

The Acceleration Initiative grantees are each funded for a period of three years, during which time they will report on their progress and eventual findings. In addition to funding these grants, CureSearch will also provide up to $2 million this year to hospitals across the country conducting children's cancer clinical trials through its Clinical Trials Advancement Awards, is funding 12 Young Investigators focused on cancers that represent the highest risk/poorest outcomes for children, and continues to provide educational resources such as webinars, podcasts, and videos for patients and families. For more information, visit www.curesearch.org.


CureSearch for Children's Cancer is a national non-profit foundation whose mission is to fund and support targeted and innovative children's cancer research with measurable results, and is the authoritative source of information and resources for all those affected by children's cancer. CureSearch accelerates the cure by driving innovation, eliminating research barriers, and solving the field's most challenging problems; annually funding clinical trials and scientific research questions that challenge the status quo to push the field closer to a cure. Ultimately, CureSearch is working to change the odds for those children most at risk.

Christine Bork
Email Christine
(800) 458-6223

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