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In the News: Eagles Autism Challenge, ASCO Young Investigator, Innovation in Collaboration, Trauma and Development, Post-Injury Mental Health, AWHONN Award

Published on June 14, 2019 in Cornerstone Blog · Last Updated 5 months 3 weeks ago


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We’re sailing into the middle of June with yet another set of exciting headlines, from the fundraising results of this the 2019 Eagles Autism Challenge, to two new awards that support researchers in our Cancer Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, to novel insights into mental health after a serious injury, and to discoveries about the impact of trauma and poverty on brain development. Read on for the latest CHOP research news!

2019 Eagles Autism Challenge Raises More Than $3.5 Million

The numbers are in — cue the drum roll, please! Thanks to 23,501 donors and 3,651 participants, this year’s Eagles Autism Challenge raised more than $3.5 million to support research into autism spectrum disorder (ASD) at CHOP, Drexel University, Thomas Jefferson University, and Jefferson Health. This is the second year that an impressive number of superhero participants gathered at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field to bike, run, or walk alongside Eagles players and coaches to raise money and awareness for our breakthroughs in ASD.

“We would like to congratulate the Philadelphia Eagles organization for another successful year in raising funds and awareness for autism research,” said Madeline Bell, President and CEO of CHOP. “We are honored to be part of this event and to support cutting-edge breakthroughs for families affected by autism not only here in Philadelphia, but also around the world.”

The funds raised from last year’s Eagles Autism Challenge are currently helping our scientists conduct research into the neurological pathways that connect ASD and epilepsy, learn more about ASD and co-occurring anxiety and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and evaluate the impact of a family navigator to support families.

Read about the 2019 Eagles Autism Challenge here.

Allison Barz Leahy, MD, Receives Young Investigator Award in Cancer Supportive Care

A warm congratulations to Allison Barz Leahy, MD, a fellow in our Cancer Immunotherapy Program at CHOP, who was named the 2019 recipient of the Anna Braglia Endowed Young Investigator Award (YIA) in Cancer Supportive Care from the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). The award, endowed by the Swiss pharmaceutical group, Helsinn, funds clinicians in the final years of their training to aid the transition from a fellowship program to a faculty appointment. With the support of the one-year, $50,000 YIA grant, Dr. Leahy will pursue her research project entitled “Symptom monitoring using patient-reported outcomes in newly diagnosed pediatric cancer patients.” Dr. Leahy is also a core faculty member at Clinical Futures, a CHOP Research Institute Center of Emphasis.

Read media coverage of the award from Yahoo Finance here.

Sarah Tasian, MD, Awarded SU2C Innovation in Collaboration Grant

A two-year grant totaling $250,000 from Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) will allow Sarah Tasian, MD, attending physician in the Division of Oncology at CHOP, and collaborator Kimberly Steigmaier, MD, a principal investigator in Pediatric Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, to test and develop a novel approach to treatment of childhood Down syndrome–associated acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) and Philadelphia chromosome–like ALL. Drs. Tasian and Steigmaier received the grant as recipients of SU2C’s Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Award, with special support from the Emily Whitehead Foundation.

The award supports collaborative work across different research institutions and teams based on the philosophy that such partnerships foster cross-cutting questions that open new paths to cancer treatment. Specifically, Drs. Tasian and Steigmaier will test a novel hypothesis that multi-antigen-specific CAR T-cells targeting two or more neoantigens presented by the cells have superior anti-leukemia efficacy, prevent resistance mechanisms observed in single antigen-targeted CAR T-cells, and lead to more durable remissions.

Learn more.

LiBi Study Associates Trauma and Earlier Puberty, Premature Brain Development, and Mental Illness

In a new JAMA Psychiatry study, researchers in the Lifespan Brain Institute (LiBi) of CHOP and the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine have linked growing up in poverty and experiencing traumatic stressful events to accelerated puberty and brain maturation, as well as greater mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. The researchers analyzed data from the Philadelphia Neurodevelopmental Cohort, which included more than 9,000 participants ranging from ages 8 to 21, and discovered associations of social economic status and traumatic stressful experiences with psychiatric symptoms, cognitive performance, and several brain structure abnormalities.

“The findings underscore the need to pay attention to the environment in which the child grows,” said the study’s lead author and director of LiBi, Raquel E. Gur, MD, PhD. “Poverty and trauma have strong associations with behavior and brain development, and the effects are much more pervasive than previously believed.”

LiBi is a unique collaboration between CHOP and Penn that seeks to drive research into brain and behavior across the fetal-adult continuum.

Read more about the recent study in the Penn Medicine press release.

New Study Assesses Risk for Depression and PTSD After an Injury

Acute injuries can result in long-term health problems and disabilities, with these outcomes exacerbated in patients with prior trauma, according to a study from CHOP and Penn researchers published in JAMA Surgery. The study, which looked at outcomes in 600 urban black men hospitalized for serious injury, highlights the importance of identifying which injured patients may be at a higher risk for poor post injury mental health outcomes. After following study participants for three months after their hospital discharge, the researchers found almost one half of the men met the diagnostic criteria for depression and/or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“The intersection of prior trauma and adversity, prior exposure to challenging neighborhood disadvantage, and poorer preinjury health and functioning should not be overlooked in the midst of acute injury care when assessing for the risk of postinjury mental health symptoms,” said lead-investigator Therese S. Richmond, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, a Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) fellow and the Andrea B. Laporte Professor of Nursing, and Associate Dean for Research & Innovation at Penn Nursing.

Learn more in JAMA Surgery.

Diane Spatz, PhD, Honored for Nursing Research Excellence

Diane Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, nurse researcher and director of the Lactation Program at CHOP, was honored with the Award of Excellence in Research from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) at the organization’s 50th anniversary convention in Atlanta. The award recognizes members as exemplifying the highest standards of service to nursing. Dr. Spatz, who is also a professor of Perinatal Nursing & the Helen M. Shearer Professor of Nutrition at Penn Nursing, is an internationally recognized researcher, clinician, and educator. Her work on the use of human milk and breastfeeding, particularly in vulnerable populations, spans far and wide in decades as well as in impact. Dr. Spatz’s 10-step model for human milk and breastfeeding in vulnerable infants has been implemented in neonatal intensive care units throughout the world.

“One of the most meaningful things about this award is that it not only recognizes my body of research contributions on human milk and breastfeeding since 1995 but also the students, nurses, physicians, and other healthcare providers who I have mentored along the way who have become passionate human milk advocates,” said Dr. Spatz in a Penn Nursing press release.

Congratulations, Dr. Spatz! Learn more.


Catch up on our headlines from our May 31 In the News:

  • Increased Risk of Repeat Concussions 
  • Identified: Severe Childhood Epilepsy Causative Gene
  • Skin Patch Treatment for Children With Eosinophilic Esophagitis
  • Screening for Food Insecurity: The Method Matters
  • Dr. Katherine Yun Named Director of Academic General Pediatrics Fellowship

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