For Immediate Release
February 27, 2012
Erica Neufeld
(240) 235-2201

Grant Awarded to Scientist Investigating Relationship between Gene Expression and Survival of Children’s Cancer
Researcher at University of Utah Focused on Ewing Sarcoma

Bethesda, MD – CureSearch for Children's Cancer today announced a $150,000, two-year grant through the Nick Currey Fund to a researcher at the University of Utah examining whether specific gene amplification is an indicator of patient outcomes in Ewing sarcoma. The grant recipient, Joshua Schiffman, MD, is an Assistant Professor in the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the University of Utah.

Dr. Schiffman's research is funded by the Nick Currey Fund at CureSearch for Children's Cancer. Established by Ralph and Nancy Currey in memory of their son, Nick, who died in November 2005 after a 14-month battle with cancer, the Nick Currey Fund's purpose is to support research to find a cure for the disease that took Nick's life – Ewing sarcoma. The Currey family hopes that research supported by the Nick Currey Fund will hasten the arrival of the day when no young person's life ends prematurely because of Ewing sarcoma.

Ewing sarcoma is the second most common type of bone tumor, often affecting the pelvis, tibia, fibula, and femur, but it can also begin in the soft tissues. This cancer most often occurs in adolescents, with nearly half of cases arising when the patient is between the ages of 10 and 20. While most patients with Ewing sarcoma respond to treatment, those with metastatic disease or those who relapse after their initial remission do not fare well.

For decades, all patients diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma have a sample of their tumor removed for examination and because samples are saved in paraffin blocks, there are thousands of tissue samples across the country available for research.

Using newly available microarray technology, Dr. Schiffman and his colleagues retrospectively examined archived tissue samples from 40 patients at the University of Utah, including tissue from patients who had both relapsed and metastatic disease. In doing so, they found that a gene called CEBPB was amplified in many patients, meaning instead of having the normal two copies of the chromosome, there were as many as 11 copies. Further research identified seven other chromosomal regions in Ewing sarcoma patients in which amplification of genes, or missing genes, occurred. They then divided patients into two categories, those with changes in gene copy numbers called Multifactor Copy Number (MCN)-positive and those without any of these changes called MCN-negative.

Because this information was gathered from previously diagnosed patients, Dr. Schiffman was able to compare his findings about MCN in each tissue sample to the patient's clinical outcome. In doing so, he discovered that patients who were MCN-negative with no copy number changes had a 100% survival rate over 12 years, compared to a 41% survival rate over 12 years for those patients who were MCN-positive.

With his new grant, Dr. Schiffman will expand this study to examine tissue samples from across the country and determine if his findings can be validated. If they are, it may lead to a change in protocol treatment for patients with Ewing sarcoma. "Right now, patients diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma receive very similar therapy," says Dr. Schiffman. "However, if we are able to validate the results of the study, then the possibility will exist to examine tumors at diagnosis and adjust therapy based on the MCN status of individual patient tumors. Such individualized medicine could improve outcomes for patients with these copy number changes."

# # #

CureSearch for Children's Cancer is a national non-profit foundation whose mission is to fund and support children's cancer research and provide information and resources to all those affected by children's cancer. CureSearch raises funds for promising research conducted at more than 175 hospitals in the United States, participating in National Cancer Institute sponsored clinical trials conducted by the Children's Oncology Group. CureSearch also funds other clinical, basic and translational research so that researchers can understand all aspects of children's cancer, from its causes to its consequences.

Christine Bork
Email Christine
(800) 458-6223

Childhood Cancer

Medical Information


Coping with Cancer

Get Involved

About Us