Dr. Meenakshi Hegde, a researcher and instructor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, received a $100,000 grant to study how the body’s immune system can be harnessed to develop new pediatric cancer treatments. The grant, awarded by CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, is part of the Young Investigators Program that funds research focused on the highest risk and poorest outcome cancers in children.
Hegde’s research supported by the grant will focus on osteosarcoma, a bone cancer affecting approximately 400 children and adolescents in the United States each year. Current treatment for osteosarcoma is usually extensive surgery followed by chemotherapy. Even with aggressive treatment, the survival rate is just 60 to 70 percent.
Researchers are looking toward immunotherapy to find potential new treatments for osteosarcoma. Immunotherapy is a treatment that harnesses the body’s own immune system to fight the disease.
This research will use tumor-suppressing T cells to target proteins found in osteosarcoma that are known to cause tumors to grow. Hegde will engineer T cells that are designed to target the two proteins most commonly expressed in osteosarcoma, with the goal of decreasing the risk of tumor recurrence.
"If successful, this work could potentially pave the way for novel immunotherapies targeting recurrent and metastatic osteosarcoma," said Hegde, who is also part of Texas Children’s Cancer Center, a joint program of BCM and Texas Children’s Hospital.
CureSearch is currently funding 12 Young Investigators with the potential to make noteworthy advancements in children’s cancer research. These investigators are in the early stages of their scientific careers and are located at universities, research institutions and hospitals throughout the United States. CureSearch for Children’s Cancer is a national non-profit foundation whose mission is to fund and support targeted and innovative children’s cancer research with measurable results.
Learn more about the Young Investigator Program on their web site.