Stand Up To Cancer and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation Announce New Pediatric Cancer Dream Team
Dream Team Will Use In-kind Donation of Instrumentation to SU2C from Life Technologies Corporation
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, along with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), SU2C’s scientific partner, announced the formation of a Dream Team dedicated to childhood cancer research during a press conference today at the AACR Annual Meeting 2013, held in Washington, D.C., April 6-10.
John M. Maris, M.D., director of the Center for Childhood Cancer Research at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, will lead the Dream Team. Crystal L. Mackall, M.D., chief of the Pediatric Oncology Branch of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Md., is the co-leader of the project, which is titled “Immunogenomics to Create New Therapies for High-risk Childhood Cancers.”
The SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Dream Team Translational Cancer Research Grant will provide $14.5 million in funding over four years for this innovative project that will unite researchers in two highly productive disciplines of translational pediatric cancer research that have historically functioned independently — genomics and immunotherapeutics. Genomics is the detailed analysis of the complete set of DNA within a sample and it can be used to dissect the cause and progression of cancer. Immunotherapeutics is the study and development of treatments that employ the body’s own immune system against disease.
“In the past 20 years, very few new therapies have been developed for pediatric cancer,” said Maris, who is also the Giulio D’Angio endowed professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. “This Dream Team has deep expertise in each of the most lethal pediatric cancers and includes thought leaders in the fields of genomics and immunotherapeutics. It is our goal, indeed our expectation, that we will initiate a sustained effort to maximize pediatric cancer cure rates through a genomics-anchored immunotherapeutic program.”
Researchers on this Dream Team represent seven institutions: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the NCI, the British Columbia Cancer Agency, Baylor College of Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Wisconsin. While researchers at the NCI will be participating fully as members of the Dream Team, in accordance with policy, no funds from the grant are going to the NCI.
“This Dream Team united top-tier researchers across North America in a multidimensional campaign that uses the best of basic science to create new therapeutics while at the same time initiating multiple, cutting-edge clinical trials of immunotherapy for deadly pediatric cancers,” said Mackall. “We are confident that this combined approach will lead to novel therapies that will improve outcomes for some of the most lethal childhood cancers.”
The joint venture between the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the leading nongovernmental provider of childhood cancer research grants, and SU2C, formed in 2008 to accelerate cancer research, brings together two of the world’s leading cancer research fundraising groups. Formation of the team, the first SU2C Dream Team focused solely on pediatric cancer research, will fulfill the mission of both organizations to fund the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and ultimately enable survivors to lead long and healthy lives.
“Every St. Baldrick’s volunteer and donor can be very proud to be a part of funding this Dream Team that has the potential to be a real game-changer in childhood cancer research,” said Kathleen Ruddy, chief executive officer of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. “This team will use increased knowledge about genomics to find new ways to put the body’s own immune system to work fighting off cancer. It will result in more survivors of not just one type but several very difficult childhood cancers, and a better quality of life for those survivors.”
In addition to the $14.5 million in cash funding, this Dream Team will have access to research instruments and equipment donated by Life Technologies Corporation to SU2C, valued at up to $500,000. Life Technologies is a developer and manufacturer of laboratory instrumentation, including semiconductor-based platforms for sequencing DNA.
“Cancer is devastating, plain and simple, but when it hits children, our hearts break that much more,” said SU2C Co-founder Katie Couric. “We are excited that the new SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Dream Team is focused solely on developing new and better treatments for many of the most deadly pediatric cancers. This will help thousands of children and teens diagnosed each year to not only beat the disease but also to thrive and live long and fulfilling lives.”
Curative chemotherapy for cancer was first realized in children and survival rates for many childhood cancers improved dramatically through the last decades of the 20th century. However, those cure rates have plateaued since the 1990s, and for some childhood cancers, cure rates remain below 20 percent. Further, current therapies often lead to severe side effects that reduce the quality of life for patients as they grow into adulthood. New classes of therapeutics are needed if the survival of children with cancer is to be improved and the financial, emotional and life-altering costs of curative therapies are to be decreased.
Genomics and immunotherapeutics are two of the most promising areas in childhood cancer research. Recent advances in cancer genomics have led to new understanding of the genetic basis of some of the most aggressive childhood cancers, but they have not yet revolutionized treatment. In parallel, efforts to harness the body’s own immune system to eradicate cancer have yielded stunning results in some patients, but these treatments remain limited in application, available only for a few cancer types and accessible at only a small number of institutions.
The Dream Team is a collaboration between pediatric cancer researchers in the largely disparate disciplines of cancer genomics and immunotherapeutics. The team will focus on developing new, targeted immunotherapeutics for the most difficult-to-cure childhood cancers.
“This Dream Team brings together an outstanding group of scientists and physicians with complementary skills in genomics and immunotherapy,” said Sung Poblete, Ph.D., R.N., president and chief executive officer of Stand Up To Cancer. “The Team is well poised to identify new immunologic targets in a wide variety of high-risk pediatric tumors, including many of the pediatric hematological malignancies (high-risk leukemias, such as relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia) and solid tumors, such as medulloblastoma, glioblastoma, neuroblastoma and sarcomas.”
First, the team will create a multi-institutional computing infrastructure to perform new analyses on childhood cancer genomes as well as normal childhood tissues to determine which molecules are on the surface of cancer cells, but not normal cells. Discoveries will be validated using newly created, powerful research tools known as tissue microarrays from cancerous and normal tissues from children.
The team will then create new immunotherapeutic drugs and approaches based on these discoveries in a collaborative manner with the Frederick National Laboratory and industry partners, and perform the necessary laboratory studies to determine if they are promising for testing in children.
In parallel, the team will develop an Immunogenomics Pediatric Cancer Dream Team clinical trials consortium to test the new immunotherapeutics in children. A major goal of the team is to create a mechanism by which these highly specialized therapies can be exported to all children’s hospitals for future testing and clinical application, with the hope that these will be transformative new therapies.
The project is estimated to start July 1, 2013, with the first clinical trials scheduled to open within the first year.
An SU2C-St. Baldrick’s Joint Scientific Advisory Committee (JSAC) conducted a unique, rapid and rigorous evaluation of the applications via a multistep scientific review process.
The committee is chaired by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, Ph.D., institute professor at the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. It is co-chaired by SU2C representative Lee J. Helman, M.D., scientific director for clinical research at the NCI’s Center for Cancer Research in Bethesda, Md., and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation representative Jeffrey M. Lipton, M.D., Ph.D., director, hematology/oncology and stem cell transplantation and professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine at the Hofstra North Shore-Long Island Jewish School of Medicine in Hempstead, N.Y. The JSAC is comprised of highly accomplished senior laboratory researchers and physician-scientists, as well as advocates.
The review process began with a call for ideas by the AACR in October 2012. The committee then chose four finalist teams, each of which met with the JSAC to present the plans for their research and respond to questions about their projects — a level of interaction between applicants and reviewers that is unique in a scientific review process.
The AACR is responsible for administering the grant and provides ongoing scientific oversight to ensure that progress is being made. Since the launch of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR has played an integral role as SU2C’s scientific partner by providing scientific leadership, expert peer review and grants administration.
Dream Team Principals and Advocate Members
The “Immunogenomics to Create New Therapies for High-risk Childhood Cancers” Dream Team consists of a multidisciplinary group of experts that includes laboratory and clinical researchers, young investigators and senior scientists who have not worked together in the past, as well as patient advocates. In addition to Maris and Mackall, team members are:
- Poul Sorensen, M.D., Ph.D., British Columbia Cancer Agency, Vancouver, Canada
- Donald W. Parsons, M.D., Ph.D., Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
- Michael D. Taylor, M.D., Ph.D., The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada
- Michael C. Jensen, M.D., Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Seattle, Wash.
- Paul Sondel, M.D., Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wis.
- Kelly Cotter, childhood cancer survivor
- Jay Scott, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation
- Liz Scott, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation
- Patrick Sullivan, Team Finn Foundation
- Lisa Tichenor, What Would Willy Want Foundation (QuadW Foundation)
- Mac Tichenor, QuadW Foundation
Including today’s announcement, SU2C has now awarded grants to 10 Dream Teams and one International Translational Cancer Research Grant. Twenty-six Innovative Research Grants have been awarded to individual young investigators. Together, these recipients comprise more than 500 scientists from 101 institutions.
About Stand Up To Cancer
Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) – an initiative of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization – raises funds to hasten the pace of groundbreaking translational research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives. SU2C marshals the resources of the media and entertainment industries in the fight against this disease.
Current members of the SU2C Council of Founders and Advisors (CFA) include Talk Show Host, Journalist and well-known Cancer Advocate Katie Couric; Sherry Lansing, Chairperson of the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Board of Directors and Founder of the Sherry Lansing Foundation; EIF President and CEO Lisa Paulsen; EIF Senior Vice President Kathleen Lobb; Rusty Robertson and Sue Schwartz of the Robertson Schwartz Agency; Pamela Oas Williams, President of Laura Ziskin Productions and Executive Producer of Stand Up To Cancer’s In-house Production Team, and Nonprofit Executive Ellen Ziffren. All current members of the CFA were co-producers of the 2012 televised special. The late co-founder Laura Ziskin executive produced both the Sept. 5, 2008, and Sept. 10, 2010, broadcasts. SU2C was formally launched on May 27, 2008. Sung Poblete, Ph.D., R.N., has served as SU2C’s president and CEO since 2011.
SU2C’s “Dream Team” approach to funding translational cancer research enables scientists from different disciplines at research centers across the country and internationally to collaborate on projects geared toward getting new, less toxic treatments to patients as quickly as possible. Monies also support innovative cancer research projects that are often deemed “too risky” by conventional funding sources. One hundred and one institutions are currently involved. As SU2C’s scientific collaborator, the American Association for Cancer Research, led by a prestigious SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, provides scientific oversight, expert review of the research projects and grants administration. For more information, visit standup2cancer.org.
About the St. Baldrick’s Foundation
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers and give survivors long and healthy lives. St. Baldrick’s coordinates its worldwide signature head-shaving events where volunteers get bald to stand in solidarity with kids fighting cancer and raises money to support research. Since 2005, St. Baldrick’s has awarded more than $103 million to support lifesaving research, making the Foundation the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants. St. Baldrick’s funds are granted to some of the most brilliant childhood cancer research experts in the world and to younger professionals who will be the experts of tomorrow. Funds awarded also enable hundreds of local institutions to participate in national pediatric cancer clinical trials, which may be a child’s best hope for a cure. For more information about the St. Baldrick’s Foundation please call 1.888.899.BALD or visit www.stbaldricks.org.
About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes eight peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer. For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.
About Life Technologies
Life Technologies Corporation (NASDAQ: LIFE) is a global biotechnology company that is committed to providing innovative products and services to leading customers in the fields of scientific research, genetic analysis and applied sciences. With a presence in more than 180 countries, the company’s portfolio of 50,000 end-to-end solutions is secured by more than 5,000 patents and licenses that span the entire biological spectrum — scientific exploration, molecular diagnostics, 21st century forensics, regenerative medicine and agricultural research. Life Technologies has approximately 10,000 employees and had sales of $3.8 billion in 2012.
Stand Up To Cancer
Jane E. Rubinstein
(212) 843-8287 office
(516) 993-0708 cell
St. Baldrick’s Foundation
(626) 792-8247 x40 office
(626) 344-4625 cell
American Association for Cancer Research
(215) 446-7162 office
(856) 562-5668 cell