St. Baldrick’s Foundation Awards $380,000 to Children’s Hospital Researchers

August 10, 2009

BY: LAURIE HOLLOWAY

Fighting childhood cancer is a hair-razing endeavor for a foundation that’s made two new grants to researchers at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation coordinates worldwide head-shaving events, with volunteer “shaves” raising money to support pediatric cancer research. Since 2000, over 100,000 head-shavings have raised more than $66 million.

Michael Engel, M.D., assistant professor of Pediatric Hematology at Children’s Hospital, has been named one of 10 national St. Baldrick’s Scholars for 2009. The honor brings $330,000 in funding for Engel’s research into acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an often fatal cancer newly diagnosed in about 1,000 children each year. Engel’s research is to gain a better understanding of how normal blood cell development is altered in AML and how those alterations can be overcome to regain control over blood cell growth and development.

Scott Borinstein, M.D., also was awarded a $50,000 Pediatric Oncology Research Grant for his research into Ewing Sarcoma, a bone cancer that strikes teenagers and young adults. Borinstein, who is currently at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, will join Vanderbilt next month to begin his research, which will try to identify tumor suppressor genes that are “turned off,” thereby contributing to formation of the sarcoma.

“We are very grateful for the generous support of our junior faculty by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation,” said Debra Friedman, the E. Bronson Ingram Chair in Pediatric Oncology, Medical Director of the REACH program and interim Director of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology.

“These grants provide much-needed support for our bright young scientists to develop their research careers, which we expect to be highly successful. With the award of these grants, Drs. Borinstein and Engel will gain valuable preliminary data to further their programs of translational research, bringing exciting discoveries in the laboratory to the bedside.

“Understanding the underlying biologic pathways that lead to childhood cancer will permit the discovery of highly effective but targeted and less toxic therapies to cure childhood cancer. These two exciting projects are examples of the exceptional research being conducted by our faculty in the Childhood Cancer Program at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. We are very proud of the accomplishments of Drs. Borinstein and Engel and look forward to the results of this exciting research.”

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