Basic research gives scientists the chance to discover completely new ways to treat cancer, as well as ways to alter current treatments so they are more effective against cancer cells or have fewer side effects on the rest of the body.
Seattle Children’s has world-class research facilities in the Pediatric Clinical Research Center on our main campus, as well as in the three buildings that make up Seattle Children’s Research Institute in the South Lake Union neighborhood.
Our researchers also work in the research labs of our partners – the University of Washington and Fred Hutch.
We are dedicated to making breakthrough discoveries that help prevent, treat and eliminate childhood cancer.
Areas of expertise:
Pediatric Brain Tumor Research
Researchers in Dr. James M. Olson’s laboratory are studying medicines that kill pediatric brain tumors and are less toxic to the rest of the body.
His group was the first to report that medicines acting in the pathways called the sonic hedgehog, retinoid, histone acetylase and notch pathways effectively killed brain cancer cells in lab studies.
These studies led to four national clinical trials for children with brain tumors, and more are planned.
His lab also developed the SmoA1 mouse model of medulloblastoma. This makes medicine testing and prioritization easier before researchers test the medicines in humans.
Olson and his colleagues have also been involved in nanotechnology research. He is working to design molecules that can find cancer cells and light them up so surgeons can see exactly where a brain tumor is and more easily remove it without taking any healthy brain tissue.
Dr. Richard G. Ellenbogen, a Seattle Children’s neurosurgeon, collaborates with Olson on this research into nanotechnology.
T and B cells are types of white blood cells that help defend the body against infection. Overactive B cells also cause many inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, and produce tumors in patients with Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Researchers led by Dr. David J. Rawlings, an immunologist at Seattle Children’s, identified a crucial trigger that activates a pathway in T and B cells that leads to the survival and growth of cells.
Now they are testing whether it also controls survival of some forms of B-cell lymphoma. If it does, this could lead to development of less toxic medicines that could slow or stop these abnormal cells.
Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Research
For acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), we have a research program to take promising lab research findings to the children who may benefit from them in the form of clinical trials.
Dr. Irwin D. Bernstein has done basic lab research at Fred Hutch about the way normal blood elements and AML develop. This led to his research in collaboration with a drug company to develop an antibody linked to a chemotherapy medicine to combat AML.
They have done early studies called phase 1 and phase 2 trials, and are now testing this treatment in children and adults around the world. This is a major advance over the way we have treated AML for the last several decades.
Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome Research
Dr. Akiko Shimamura is the director of the Bone Marrow Failure Program at Seattle Children’s Hospital. She studies the molecular functions of the SBDS gene, with the goal of developing more effective and less toxic treatments for marrow failure, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and leukemia caused by Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome (SDS). She is also working to find new medicines to treat marrow failure in SDS.
Dr. Lauri Burroughs is director of the Non-Malignant Transplant Program at Fred Hutch and Seattle Children’s Hospital. She is an expert in the field of hematopoietic cell transplantation for children with marrow failure disorders, including SDS. Patients with SDS have complex medical problems and are often at increased risk for complications after transplantation. She has established a new bone marrow transplant approach for SDS to reduce complications and toxic side effects.
Dr. Colleen Delaney has developed strategies to expand hematopoietic stem cells from umbilical cord blood to improve hematopoietic stem cell transplant outcomes. Delaney and Shimamura are working together to apply this approach to the treatment of SDS.
Dr. Ray Monnat is an expert in DNA repair. Monnat is developing ways to correct the mutations in the SBDS gene using cutting-edge genomics technologies.
Dr. Andrew Scharenberg, an expert in immunology, is developing new approaches to alter the immune system to improve outcomes with hematopoietic stem cell transplant.
Seattle Children’s also works with our partner institutions to do research to understand the causes of SDS and develop better treatments. Fred Hutch is the home of the North American Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome Registry and Repository. The registry will help doctors and researchers better understand SDS and improve medical care and treatment for people with the disease.
Diamond-Blackfan Anemia Research
Doctors and researchers at Seattle Children’s and our partner institutions are working hard to understand what causes Diamond-Blackfan anemia (DBA). Scientific studies are ongoing, and Seattle Children’s is committed to bringing new treatment options to patients.
Dr. Akiko Shimamura is the director of the Bone Marrow Failure Program at Seattle Children’s. Her research at Fred Hutch investigates the ribosomal genes mutated in DBA. She is studying how ribosomal abnormalities lead to marrow failure and cancer predisposition.
Dr. Janis Abkowitz is an expert on red blood cell production. Her lab at the University of Washington studies how the body makes and balances blood cells, and how this may contribute to DBA.
Dr. Sioban Keel is an adult hematologist at the University of Washington and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, with expertise in red cell disorders and iron metabolism. She studies disorders of red blood cell production such as DBA. Keel and Shimamura work together in the transition from pediatric to adult clinical care.
Dr. Lauri Burroughs is the director of the Non-Malignant Transplant Program at Fred Hutch and Seattle Children’s Hospital. She is an expert in the field of hematopoietic cell transplantation for children with marrow failure disorders, including DBA. She has established a new bone marrow transplant approach for DBA to reduce complications and toxic side effects.