Addressing the Challenges of Childhood Cancer

  • Published: September 19, 2017

In addition to the issue of funding, the number of pediatric cancer researchers is relatively small compared to its adult cancer counterpart. Not only that, the number of pediatric patients is also smaller compared to the number of adult cancer patients.

Recognizing this problem, CPRIT has helped to catalyze centers of excellence in childhood cancer research in Texas by actively encouraging institutions to apply for its Core Facility Support Awards (CFSA) and Multi-Investigator Research Awards (MIRAs). These centers of excellence include Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital, the Greehey Children's Cancer Research Institute at UT Health San Antonio, the Children’s Research Institute at UT Southwestern and the Texas Tech Cancer Centers. Through these grants, childhood cancer researchers are collaborating on an unprecedented scale, which has not only helped to catalyze the growth of these centers, but also helped bridge and extend expertise and innovation across the state. Building these alliances helps ensure there are sufficient numbers of cases needed to answer questions.

Addressing the Challenges of Childhood Cancer

For example, in 2012, CPRIT awarded a $6.9 million grant to a team of four led by Stephen Skapek, M.D., Chief Division of Pediatric Hemotology/Oncology at UT Southwestern, creating a five-year collaboration with researchers at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital and the UT Health San Antonio. The MIRA’s aim is to support the discovery of unknown drivers of soft tissue sarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma, and to develop tailored treatments for children with these diseases. Soft tissue sarcoma is thought of as an orphan disease – one in which few advancements have been made compared to other cancers. If successful, the initiative is likely to lead to personalized treatment of the diseases.

Thus far, Dr. Skapek is encouraged by the soft tissue sarcoma collaboration in which he and his colleagues across Texas are working, and he is optimistic about the possibilities of the research.

“With funding from CPRIT, our team is beginning to unravel the mechanisms driving childhood sarcoma, and that knowledge is beginning to reveal opportunities for new treatment approaches.”