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UCSF Lands St. Baldrick's Funding for Cancer Genomics, PGx

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The St. Baldrick's Foundation has awarded $430,000 to fund two research projects at the University of California, San Francisco that seek to use and apply genomics to treat or prevent childhood cancer.

UCSF Assistant Professor in Residence Jean Nakamura will use a $330,00 grant in a study aimed at therapy-associated malignancies among childhood cancer survivors, looking at who is at risk for developing those malignancies, why they develop, and how to prevent them.

Assistant Adjunct Professor Theodore Nicolaides will use a $100,000 award to investigate new combinations of treatments for a specific gene-based subset of pediatric brain tumors.

"A major goal of our research is to analyze the genetic changes that lead to therapy-induced cancers, so that we can find ways to prevent them. To do this, we are using sophisticated genetic analyses to find the most important gene mutations that occur in therapy-induced cancers and then studying how these mutations work to produce a second cancer," Nakamura said in a statement.

"This type of analysis hasn't been performed before, and we are excited about the possibility of making major progress in an area that hasn't seen the kind of advances that keep childhood cancers survivors healthy," Nakamura continued.

Nicolaides said that childhood brain tumors are currently not all curable but explained that recent research has found mutations in the BRAF gene in "a substantial subset" of these tumors, and he noted that oral drugs targeting this gene "have shown remarkable efficacy in melanoma tumors with similar BRAF mutations."

"We have previously shown that these BRAF inhibitors may also target pediatric brain tumors but that combination treatment with multiple inhibitors may be required for maximal effectiveness," he said.

This grant will fund efforts "to help us optimize these combinations experimentally, before bringing these to children as part of a clinical trial."

The St. Baldrick's Foundation has awarded a total of $23 million in the recent 2012 summer grant cycle to research projects into childhood cancer that it deems promising.

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