Baylor College of Medicine News

Pediatric oncologist receives grant for neuroblastoma research

Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Cancer Center pediatric oncologist Dr. Jason Shohet has received a grant from Braden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer to support his research to find novel treatments for high-risk neuroblastoma.

Aggressive cancer

"High-risk neuroblastoma is an aggressive cancer of very young children with an average age of diagnosis of 20 months. Despite our most aggressive attempts at cure with high-dose chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, overall long-term survival is less than 45 percent. Our laboratory has focused on developing novel tumor-specific therapies to target neuroblastoma," said Shohet, professor of pediatrics ­- oncology at BCM and chair of the Neuroblastoma Program at Texas Children’s Cancer Center.

This project targets neuroblastoma cells that have cancer stem cell characteristics, including the ability to divide and reproduce.

"Cancer stem cells have been implicated as drivers of metastasis and resistance to chemotherapy, so there is currently great interest in directly targeting CSC subpopulations, which may lead to improved outcomes with reduced toxicity," said Shohet, who is also part of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital and the Methodist Hospital.

Knocking out CD114 receptor

Specifically, this research will focus on neuroblastoma cancer stem cells that express a receptor called CD114. Shohet and his colleagues believe they have uncovered the signaling events that are important to the maintenance and function of these cancer stem cells, and they hypothesize that knocking out the CD114 receptor will cripple the tumor-producing activity of the cells.

"Our specific aims with this study is to test our hypotheses using two distinct approaches to silence the CD114 gene and evaluating changes in tumorigenesis, metastasis and response to chemotherapy in in vivo neuroblastoma tumor models," Shohet said.

Braden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer is a nonprofit organization created by Deliece and Brian Hofen, whose son, Braden, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2007. The foundation is committed to raising awareness and funds for research grants to hospitals and/or research institutions in the amount of $100,000.

Texas Children’s Cancer Center is a joint program of Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.