Art + Science = Innovation
“I have always been artistic in my life and creativity is very important to me,” says Dr. Anne Rios, recipient of the prestigious St. Baldrick’s Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award, who leads a research team and runs the Imaging Center at the Princess Maxima Center of pediatric oncology in Utrecht, the Netherlands. “So, when I started my scientific career, I wanted to combine both art and science to visualise the behaviour of cells in physiological condition but also during cancer.”
During her postdoctoral training, Dr. Rios developed 3D imaging technology that allows viewers to immerse themselves into the cellular architecture of an entire organ. She is one of only a few people in the world to apply this technology, and she has optimized it into a rapid and easy-to-use protocol that can now be used for 3D imaging of entire organs, intact tumors and organoids.
Since pediatric cancers arise early in life, even at an embryonic stage, this combined expertise in developmental biology and three-dimensional imaging allows Dr. Rios to have a unique look at these cancers. She examines cancer cells and their behaviour to see very specific details of the cells that can contribute to their aggressiveness and their ability to make a child sick. Once these specific features are identified, drugs can be developed against them with the goal of providing new treatment options for children with cancer.
A Unique Award
This award is made twice each year by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation in memory of Dr. Robert J. Arceci, whose passion was innovation. One award is given to a researcher in the U.S. or Canada. The other – in recognition of how highly Dr. Arceci valued international research – is given to a researcher outside those borders. This is the first time the award has gone to the Netherlands.
The award is unique in that recipients are chosen not based on proposals, but for their track record of innovation. They have complete freedom in how to use the award of $250,000 U.S. per year for three years.
The Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award was inspired by Dr. Arceci, a beloved childhood cancer researcher, innovator, and champion of researchers everywhere.
A New Type of Innovation
When asked how she is likely to put the award to work, Dr. Rios says, “I apply three-dimensional imaging technologies to study pediatric cancer in great detail. This means that a lot of my time is dedicated to technical innovation. In addition, this detailed visualization has often led to highly unexpected findings. Therefore, it is hard to predict from which line of research our most important and valuable discoveries will arise. The St. Baldrick’s Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award will give me the scientific freedom to apply and innovate my technology across multiple projects related to childhood cancer.”
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