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March 5, 2014
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate receives $100K from Boeheim Foundation for pediatric cancer research

Researchers at Upstate Medical University will use a $100,000 grant from the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation to study potential new treatments for children with cancer, the fourth leading cause of death in children.

The Boeheim Foundation made the contribution to the Foundation for Upstate to support two studies: one will investigate new treatment options for children with osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma, two bone cancers that occur mainly in adolescents; the other will look at ways to reduce the adverse effects of radiation treatments for childhood cancer on bone growth and development.

“The Boeheim Foundation is pleased to support such vital research that holds the hope of better treatment for children with cancer,” said Juli Boeheim.  “To be able to support this research right her in our own backyard, at Upstate Medical University, makes this grant that much more meaningful.”

“We are very grateful to the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation for this important funding,” said Timothy Damron, MD, a member of the Upstate faculty who will lead the research efforts.  “This support provides us with the opportunity to begin looking at new treatments for curing cancer in children, and ensuring that these treatments enable them to live long healthy lives.”

Osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma are two common bone cancers that can strike any age, but they are mainly seen in adolescents.

Although the use of intensive chemotherapy drugs to kill the tumor cells has been moderately successful, the survival rate of children diagnosed with osteosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma is around 50 to 70 percent. There have been no advances in patient survival since this approach to treatment has become the standard of care.

To try and increase the survival rate of these cancers, researchers, led by Damron, professor of orthopedic surgery, cell and developmental biology and neuroscience and physiology, and Bryan Marguiles, PhD, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and cell and developmental biology, will attempt to find a way to block cellular signals so tumor cells cannot influence nearby bone marrow cells into spreading the cancer, rather then fighting it.

In the other study, researchers will address the radiation effects on a child’s bones.  The study will be led by Megan Oest, PhD, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery and cell and developmental biology.

Most common cancer treatments rely on the use of radiation therapy and chemotherapy to eradicate rapidly dividing cells. While these treatments have been beneficial to patients, both radiation and chemotherapy also attack and damage normal healthy cells.  In children who have received radiation and chemotherapy treatment for cancer, side effects from the destruction of healthy cells often arise as they enter adulthood and can include broken and brittle bones as well as the development of limb length discrepancies.

The Upstate research team, which has already done extensive work on the adverse effects of radiation on bone fragility, will now look at a certain type of stem cell (mesenchymal stem cells) believed to be the culprit behind bone fragility issues in children.

Researchers will attempt to define the relationship between these stem cells and musculoskeletal damage in growing bones and find a way to reduce radiation’s effect on these cells.

“This is a great example of how scientists at Upstate are working together to tackle finding new treatments for childhood cancer and how the community—through the Boeheim Foundation—is supporting research here at Upstate Medical University,” said Rosemary Rochford, PhD, Upstate’s vice president for research.

The Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation was established by Syracuse University basketball head coach Jim Boeheim and his wife, Juli.  It strives to enrich the lives of kids in need within the Central New York community, as well as provide support for eliminating cancer through research and advocacy. The Foundation is committed to assisting organizations in need of funding to support innovative and creative projects and/or programs.

Caption: From left, Bryan Marguiles, PhD, Megan Oest, PhD, and Timothy Damron, MD, whose work on developing new cancer treatments for children is being funded by the Jim and Juli Boeheim Foundation.

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