Three Baylor College of Medicine physician-scientists have received support totaling more than $500,000 from St. Baldrick's Foundation to advance their research in pediatric cancer.

Dr. Karen Rabin, assistant professor of pediatrics – hematology/oncology, was named a St. Baldrick's Scholar, which includes $333,000 in funding. Dr. Eugene Kim, assistant professor of surgery, received an $85,915 research grant, and Dr. Keita Terashima, clinical postdoctoral fellow in pediatrics – hematology/oncology, received $132,809 in support as a 2010 St. Baldrick's Fellow. All three are members of Texas Children's Cancer Center, a joint program of BCM and Texas Children's Hospital.

"We are grateful to the St. Baldrick's Foundation for the support it provides our researchers," said Dr. David Poplack, professor of pediatrics – hematology/oncology at BCM and director of the Texas Children's Cancer Center, which is the pediatric program of BCM's National Cancer Institute-designated Dan L Duncan Cancer Center. "These three physician-scientists are conducting important research focused on understanding the basis of pediatric cancers and finding better treatment and screenings, and their work would not be possible without the support of our partners like St. Baldrick's."

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia research

Rabin's research focuses on the characteristics of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in children with Down syndrome. The grant will support research into whether ALL cases with abnormal activity of genes called JAK2 and CRLF2 may respond to treatment with a new class of drugs that block activation of JAK2 and other genes in this pathway. Research will also seek to identify gene variants that may predispose children with Down syndrome to severe infectious complications during their chemotherapy treatment, with the goal of identifying high-risk patients who need added precautions to reduce their risk of complications.

Intracranial germ cell tumors research

Terashima's fellowship focuses on intracranial Germ Cell Tumors (GCT), which are rare and poorly understood brain tumors that occur mostly in teenagers. In collaboration with multiple institutions, he will generate the largest comprehensive genetic profiles of these tumors to help understand how intracranial GCTs arise and what determines their biological and clinical behavior. This research could lead to potential new therapeutic targets. His team will also develop a test that requires only a small amount of tumor tissue to accurately subclassify intracranial GCTs and initiate the first-ever cell lines for these tumors, which will aid in determining the impact of genetic abnormalities and in preclinical drug screenings.

Terashima's research mentor is Dr. Ching Lau, associate professor in pediatrics – hematology/oncology.

Neuroblastoma research

The grant to Kim will support his research into neuroblastoma patients whose immune systems are compromised due to powerful chemotherapy and susceptible to life-threatening infections. These patients often require therapy such as granulocyte colony-stimulating factors (GCSF), which helps the body produce white blood cells to fight infection. In many adult cancers, GCSF has been shown to increase cancer cell growth through its interaction with GCSF receptors found on the cancer cells.

"The goal of our proposal is to study the pathway of how GCSF and GCSF-R may enhance tumor growth by performing studies on neuroblastoma cells and neuroblastoma tumors in animals," Kim said. "We hope to clarify the appropriate use of GCSF in patients and determine whether GCSF-receptor may be a novel therapeutic target in neuroblastoma."

St. Baldrick's Foundation

St. Baldrick's Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research. The foundation provides grants to research institutions to find new cures for childhood cancer and to find treatments to ensure a better quality of life for patients and survivors.