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Stand Up To Cancer and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation Grant $1.86 Million to Seattle Children’s Research Institute

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Dr. Michael Jensen, director of Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children's Research Institute

April 08, 2013

Dream Team of seven institutions receive $14.5 million to develop therapies for most challenging-to-cure childhood cancers

Stand Up To Cancer and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, along with the American Association for Cancer Research, announced the formation of a Dream Team dedicated to childhood cancer research during a press conference held April 7, 2013, in Washington, D.C. Michael Jensen, MD, director of Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, is one of seven members of the Dream Team.

Stand Up To Cancer and St. Baldrick’s will provide $1.86 million in funding to Seattle Children’s Research Institute over four years for a project that unites researchers across the country in genomics and immunotherapeutics. Genomics is the detailed analysis of the complete set of DNA within a sample and can be used to dissect the cause and progression of cancer. Immunotherapeutics is the study and development of treatments that employ the body’s own immune system to fight against disease.  

Jensen’s work falls under cancer immunotherapy, in which a patient’s own T cells are genetically modified to recognize cancer cells and attack them just as unmodified cells attack a viral infection. The modified  T cells make an artificial receptor that acts like a Velcro molecule, allowing them to recognize and attack cancer cells. Jensen was the first to describe the specific chimeric receptor for targeting leukemia. 

Seattle Children’s is one of only a few pediatric centers in the U.S. working on an immunological approach to curing cancer – and the only center west of the Rocky Mountains with an open trial and the capability to modify and manufacture the T cells.  

Last September, Jensen  and his team received the green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct a trial of cancer immunotherapy treatment for children and young adults with relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  

“It takes leadership that thinks outside of the box to move the needle on pediatric cancer research,” said Jensen. “The Dream Team initiative will help all of our institutions, since funding is currently a challenge for researchers in the U.S. We’re all aiming for the same goal—to revolutionize how childhood cancer is treated, and to reduce or eliminate the need for chemotherapy and radiation treatments that have debilitating lifelong effects on those who survive cancer.” 

In addition to Seattle Children’s, researchers on the Dream Team represent The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the National Cancer Institute, the University of British Columbia, Baylor College of Medicine, The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the University of Wisconsin. While researchers at the NCI will be participating fully as members of the Dream Team, in accordance with policy, no funds from the grant are going to the NCI. 

The project is estimated to start July 1, 2013, with the first clinical trials scheduled to open within the first year. 

About Seattle Children’s Research Institute

Located in downtown Seattle’s biotech corridor, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is pushing the boundaries of medical research to find cures for pediatric diseases and improve outcomes for children all over the world. Internationally recognized investigators and staff at the research institute are advancing new discoveries in cancer, genetics, immunology, pathology, infectious disease, injury prevention and bioethics, among others. As part of Seattle Children’s Hospital, the research institute brings together leading minds in pediatric research to provide patients with the best care possible. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, which consistently ranks as one of the best pediatric departments in the country. For more information, visit http://www.seattlechildrens.org/research.

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