Your donation to Unravel Pediatric Cancer supports research that investigates the causes and mechanisms of pediatric cancer, helps develop more effective and less toxic treatments, and ultimately leads to a cure. We focus on funding the basic research that provides the foundation for clinical trials. Here’s how:
At Unravel, we feel it’s critical that scientists are able to make quick decisions regarding the direction of their research projects without seeking approval mid-project from their funding partners. We think that scientists’ time is much better spent doing research than writing grant proposals. For these reasons, we do not fund research using the traditional grant method – we provide funding that is generally not restricted to a specific purpose. In this way, we can allow our beneficiaries the flexibility and agility to quickly follow up on exciting new discoveries.
Our beneficiaries thus far have included:
Michelle Monje, MD, PhD and her team at Stanford University
- Dr Monje’s lab is taking a multiple-pronged approach to investigating new DIPG treatments, including exploring molecular and cellular vulnerabilities of DIPG cells, determining the mechanisms by which normal cells become cancerous, and finding ways to lessen the effects of treatment on normal cells. See more about Dr. Monje, and her team at Stanford University
Watch the below video for a tour of Dr. Monje’s lab.
Dr. Monje and her team wrote this paper that was recently published. The goal being to change the way they radiate children with DIPG at Stanford. DIPG is in the brain stem, the back and bottom part of the head. The tumor also tends to lurk in a very specific area in the frontal lobe part of the brain. JLK’s initial tumor in the brain stem (pons) responded well to treatment. It actually shrunk, but it had already progressed in her frontal lobe. It’s a question I have carried with me since we found out it had progressed. I will always wonder if we had radiated her there, would she would have gotten more time.
That’s so wrong… that I don’t even wonder if it would have saved her… but just more time… more low-symptom time is all I wish for now… We only got 4-5 weeks post treatment ’til hospice started… her steep yet cruelly slow decline. I put it all together now… if we could have used some of Olsen’s tumor paint to see the cancer and Monje’s updated radiation to attack it… maybe we would have had some more time… Just those basic days at home that I long for… days like today where we played, ate lunch, made up a new game and watched some shows. Nothing fancy… just perfect.
— Libby Kranz
- Dr. Olson and his team have developed a new technology called optides to direct cancer-killing drugs specifically to cancer cells while ignoring the healthy cells around them. This should result in decreased toxicity and side effects for patients. Dr. Olson’s team has also developed Tumor Paint, molecules that seek out, stick to, and illuminate tumor cells — making them far easier to remove while minimizing damage to the surrounding tissue. See more about Dr. Olson, and his team at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Dr. Olson and his team created a thank you video, responding to Unravel, and the efforts made during last year’s Fluttering campaign.
- The UC Santa Cruz Treehouse Childhood Cancer Project enables sharing of pediatric cancer genomic data. But more than that, it makes it possible to analyze a child’s cancer data against both childhood and adult patient cohorts across all types of cancer. This “pan-cancer” analysis of adult and pediatric tumors may identify situations where an adult drug is predicted to work on a subset of pediatric patients. See more about the UCSC Treehouse Childhood Cancer Project
Watch the below video to learn more about the Treehouse project./div>
- Dr. Raju directs the Laboratory for Childhood Brain Tumor Research at Weill Cornell Medical College and studies the developmental origins of pediatric brain tumors with a particular focus on medulloblastoma and its relationship to developmental signal transduction pathways. Through the utilization of sophisticated mouse genetics techniques, Dr. Raju and his team are creating new and improved preclinical mouse models of these childhood brain tumors to better understand their biology, investigate novel treatment approaches, as well as identify treatment resistance mechanisms that can be translated back for use in patients in order to improve their outcomes.
Learn more about what Dr. Raju is doing below.
- Dr. Bleakley is developing ways to optimize the use of T cells in transplants and cell therapies given after transplants to prevent and treat relapse of leukemia.
In particular, Dr. Bleakley work is focused on promoting the advantageous Graft-Versus-Leukemia (GVL) effect and reducing the potentially dangerous Graft Versus Host Disease (GVHD) that can be caused by host cells attacking donor T cells after stem cell or bone marrow transplants.
- Dr. Jennifer Cochran and her team use interdisciplinary approaches in chemistry, engineering, and biophysics to study and manipulate complex biological systems, with a focus on developing new technologies for basic science and biomedical applications. In addition, combinatorial and rational methods are used to engineer designer protein and peptide ligands for a variety of applications including wound healing, cardiac tissue engineering, and cancer imaging and therapy.
- This lab is run by Dr. Nai-Kong V. Cheung, MD, PhD, and focuses on engineering of antibodies and immune cells to treat solid tumors in children.
- Dr. Roth’s research focuses improving outcomes for children with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Dr. Roth is using novel sequencing technologies to evaluate the genetic landscape of Burkitt lymphoma, the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children. The data obtained from this work is being used to identify novel targeted therapies. Targeted agents may be less toxic than conventional chemotherapy and may be able to rescue those patients with chemotherapy-resistant disease. Dr. Roth has been recognized for her work with awards from the Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer, the Sass Foundation for Medical Research, and the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
- The Guzman laboratory conducts translational research focused on developing novel therapies to target leukemia stem cells in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Focusing primarily on AML, they work synergistically with clinical investigators in the Leukemia Program of Weill Cornell Medical College to understand how leukemia stem cells are affected in patients undergoing clinical trials. Through collaborations between research and clinic and biophysicists and genome scientists, they are forming a detailed map of the genes and pathways crucial for the persistence of leukemia and making leukemia therapy more effective.
- Dr. Biegel is working on a new way to identify gene mutations that can cause rhabdoid tumor to develop or spread. Once she find these, she can develop drugs to target them. Also, they’ll help doctors tell the difference between a new tumor and one that has spread- which is important since they are treated differently. Finding these mutations can also help identify high-risk patients that need closer monitoring.
- Andy is leading a study at cc-TDI which attempts to develop more promising treatment options for children with high-risk Wilms tumor. This study is generously supported by Unravel Pediatric Cancer. See more about Andrew Woods, Dr. Charles Keller, and his team at The Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute
Andy’s interest in cancer research stems from his personal experience with childhood cancer. Andy’s oldest daughter, Stellablue Woods, is an anaplastic Wilms’ tumor survivor, leading to his interest in helping all children with cancer and a desire to make a mid-life career transition into cancer research.
In early 2015, Andy was introduced to Dr. Charles Keller, Scientific Director at The Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute (cc-TDI). Dr. Keller had recently launched his non-profit biotech which was focused on improving cure rates for children with cancer. Andy asked Dr. Keller if he would help him to become personally involved with the research process. This led to Andy completing an internship at cc-TDI and eventually a career transition for Andy into cancer research with a focus on rare childhood cancers.
- Dr. Courtney Crane is pursuing therapies that use the immune system to wipe out brain tumors, without the devastating and often lifelong side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
This immunotherapy approach has been shown to be effective in fighting leukemia and other blood cancers, but solid tumors have a unique ability to fly under the immune system’s radar and avoid its attacks. For instance, the body automatically sends innate immune cells, such as myeloid and natural killer (NK) cells, to the area around a tumor. Once there, however, cancer cells can modify those immune cells to stop them from eliminating the tumor.
Crane’s team is unraveling exactly how cancer cells disarm immune cells, with the goal of finding ways to reprogram those immune cells so they can elude cancer’s defenses and destroy brain tumors, neuroblastoma and other cancers.
- Dr. Biegel is an internationally renowned leader in pediatric cancer genetics. She founded the Clinical Cancer Cytogenetics Laboratory at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she focused on the development of state of the art testing for children with hematologic and solid tumors. She is an internationally recognized leader in the field of pediatric brain tumor research, known for her work identifying germline and acquired alterations of the SMARCB1/INI1 gene in the development of central nervous system (CNS) rhabdoid tumors, and the KIAA1549-BRAF fusion in pediatric low-grade gliomas of the CNS. Dr. Biegel’s approach has truly been a bench to bedside strategy, beginning with the identification of key targets and methods in the research laboratory, and successively developing and validating protocols in the CAP/CLIA environment for clinical implementation.
- Dr. Beierle’s research interest lies in the study of pediatric solid tumors, specifically the signal transduction pathways involved in neuroblastoma.