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Two foundations that support brain cancer research have awarded Richard Gilbertson, MD, PhD, an assistant member of Developmental Neurobiology, support that will total almost $1 million over the next few years.
The V Foundation for Cancer Research (established in honor of Jim Valvano, a basketball coach and sports commentator who succumbed to cancer), has awarded Gilbertson $300,000; and The Sontag Foundation has bestowed on him its Distinguished Scientist Award, worth up to $500,000 over three years.
The group led by Gilbertson is seeking to improve the outcome of children with medulloblastoma and ependymoma, two of the most common childhood brain tumors, by incorporating laboratory discoveries into clinical practice.
In work supported by the V Foundation, the group will study how the ERBB2 oncogene promotes aggressive disease behavior in medulloblastoma, and whether the protein made by ERBB2 might be a useful new drug target. The work will employ a broad range of research tools available at St. Jude, including the development of new genetic models of medulloblastoma, testing of new ERBB2-directed drugs and the molecular analysis of tumor material derived from patients treated on the current medulloblastoma clinical trial. A major objective of SJBM03 is to characterize the pattern and clinical significance of molecular abnormalities in samples of tumors, including medulloblastoma and other cancers called primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNETS). "This study is very ambitious and designed to give us critically important information that will help us design better treatments for medulloblastoma and PNETS," says Gilbertson. "The grant represents a significant vote of confidence in the St. Jude Brain Tumor Program and the value of the proposed work."
The Sontag Foundation, established by a family of the same name, provides funding to research in brain cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. The Distinguished Scientist Award supports outstanding scientists serving their first faculty appointment. This award was presented to Gilbertson to support his efforts to identify a tumor stem cell for pediatric ependymoma.