The Childhood Cancer Blog

Best supporting role in a potential breakthrough…the ALSF ‘A’ Award

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Fresh off the Oscars buzz from earlier this week, we have some pretty exciting news about one of our most prestigious awards/grants, the ‘A’ Award. 

Back in 2009, we introduced the ‘A’ Award for young researchers as a way to jumpstart the careers of young scientists in the pediatric cancer field. Despite the possible impact that new ideas from these young scientists may ultimately have on children with cancer, these researchers conveyed to us that it’s a challenge to get funding for their projects. We believe that young researchers are integral components of finding new treatments and cures in the childhood cancer world and by providing support for their research these investigators will utilize their talents toward pediatric oncology. Hence, the ‘A’ Award was born. Since it was introduced, we’ve funded 15 of these important ‘A’ Awards and are thrilled to report that they’re helping to make important findings. 
Todd Druley, MD, PhD

Ok, so back to the exciting news…one of our first ‘A’ Award recipients, Todd Druley, MD, PhD, from Washington University in St. Louis, recently discovered through his research that babies who develop leukemia during their first year of life appear to have inherited a genetic predisposition that can make them highly susceptible to the disease.

Unlike leukemia in older children, which can often be cured, infant leukemia is very rare and more difficult to cure. Doctors have been baffled why babies that are just a few months old can develop cancer since they have not lived long enough to accumulate a critical number of cancer-causing mutations. Dr. Druley’s research has shed a bit of light on this question. His findings indicate that babies appear to have inherited rare genetic variants from both parents that by themselves would not cause problems, but in combination put the infants at high risk of leukemia. 

So, now what? Dr. Druley wants to continue to study these inherited variations and learn more about how they can lead to leukemia. The hope is that it may be possible to use a technique called genetic editing to remove the harmful gene from the DNA of infants who are susceptible to leukemia, and replace it with a healthy version of the same gene, ultimately sparing babies and their families from a devastating diagnosis. Pretty great stuff. 

Projects like Dr. Druley’s are why it’s so important that we fund these research projects – this is the kind of work your support and donations are helping to make possible. Thank you!

Read more about this research project:
Published in the journal Leukemiaread the full article