St. Baldrick's Foundation Grants a Total of $455,582 to Children's Hospital

01/4/2012

The Cancer Center at Children's Hospital recently announced two new grants totaling $455,582 from The St. Baldrick's Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research.

More than 160,000 children worldwide are diagnosed with cancer each year, and it remains the leading cause of death by disease among children in the United States. With only 4 percent of all federal cancer research funding dedicated to pediatric cancer research, St. Baldrick’s Foundation grant funds are critical to continue the battle against this devastating disease.

The two grant awardees are Vandana Batra, M.D., who received a $205,582 Fellow award and Jill Ginsberg, M.D., who will lead a study funded by a $250,000 Consortium Research Grant.

Dr. Batra is one of 13 new St. Baldrick’s Fellows in 2011. Her research will concentrate on developing a more effective treatment for neuroblastoma, a tumor of the developing nervous system that accounts for 10 percent of deaths from childhood cancer. She is researching a novel form of radiotherapy — a method of delivering precise doses of a radioactive chemical that selectively kills tumor cells. In particular, she is investigating a chemical called 211At-MABG, which emits radioactive alpha particles. These high-energy particles are expected to be even more effective in killing neuroblastoma cells, while minimizing damage to healthy cells, when compared to an existing radiotherapy, called 131I-MIBG, which delivers beta particles to treat cancer.

“My goal is to demonstrate that targeted therapy with 211At-MABG has markedly superior efficacy in destroying tumor cells in preclinical models, so that we’ll have evidence to support using 211At-MABG in clinical trials in children with neuroblastoma,” says Dr. Batra, pediatric hematology/oncology fellow at Children’s Hospital.

The Consortium Research Grant will support the Testicular Cryopreservation Consortium (TCC). This collaborative group of scientists addresses the fact that young boys who receive life-saving cancer treatments before they reach puberty may have an extremely high risk of infertility as adults. Four years ago, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia became the first hospital to offer patients and families the option of preserving the boys’ immature testicular tissue for possible future use in rescuing their fertility. The new grant will allow this experimental program in fertility preservation to expand to other pediatric hospitals, increasing the amount of tissue available for progress in research.

“We are grateful to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for enabling us to expand our program into a model for other children’s hospitals,” says Dr. Ginsberg, a pediatric oncologist at CHOP and the grant’s principal investigator. “Based on previous studies and our own research showing that families appreciated having this option available for their sons, our hope is that advances in laboratory science and medicine will make it possible for these boys to achieve fertility when they are ready to begin a family.”

These grants are part of more than $19.6 million in new grants awarded by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, bringing the total to more than $21 million awarded for the fiscal year. All funding applications were peer-reviewed by leading pediatric cancer researchers who volunteer their time and expertise and make funding recommendations to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s board of directors. The Foundation’s next round of grants will be announced in November.