Rolling Up Their Lab Coat Sleeves: The 2022 St. Baldrick’s Fellows

by St. Baldrick's Foundation
March 14, 2022

The next generation of childhood cancer researchers is rolling up their lab coat sleeves and doubling down on the fight to end childhood cancers.

Thanks to donors like you, these doctors will train with leaders in the field and launch new research projects to answer pressing questions in the quest to conquer childhood cancers.

Explore the new research you’re supporting:

New fellow headshots with text Announcing New St. Baldrick’s Foundation Fellowships

Dr. Ruyan Rahnama

Although advances have been made in treating acute myeloid leukemia (AML), many patients relapse and have poor outcomes. Dr. Ruyan Rahnama at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is studying immunotherapy to combat relapsed AML. The site where CAR-modified NK cells (engineered “natural killer” immune cells) and leukemia cells come together is known as the immunological synapse. This site plays a key role in activating the NK cell to make the immunotherapy work. Dr. Rahnama aims to better understand the biology of the immunological synapse to improve CAR-NK cell design for ultimate use as pediatric AML treatment.

Dr. Betsy Young

Currently, there is no specific treatment for osteosarcoma tumors that have spread throughout the body. Dr. Betsy Young at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco will identify factors that control the spread of osteosarcoma, to develop new therapies. “I hope to identify a new medical treatment to unleash the immune system to attack osteosarcoma” she says.

Dr. Anusha Anukanth

Although the ability to cure children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) has improved significantly over the past few decades, it remains tough to treat certain high-risk subtypes. Dr. Anusha Anukanth at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital is investigating a new type of immunotherapy to treat infant leukemia – a high-risk ALL subtype that occurs in children under one.

Based on exciting progress over the past two years, the following doctors were awarded an additional year of funds to continue their Fellowship research:

Dr. Shannon Conneely

About one-quarter of children with AML have a form called core binding factor (CBF) AML. One out of three children with this mutation will relapse despite intensive therapy. Dr. Shannon Conneely at Baylor College of Medicine is exploring how this mutation affects the cancer cells’ ability to grow, likely uncovering new therapeutic targets for the treatment of children with this disease.

Dr. Zachary Reitman

Brainstem gliomas are a particularly lethal subgroup of pediatric brain tumors for which new therapies are urgently needed. The only treatment that is thought to improve the survival of children with this disease is radiation therapy. Still, the tumor inevitably progresses after treatment, almost always leading to death within 18 months. Dr. Zachary Reitman at Duke University School of Medicine is focused on enhancing the efficacy of radiation therapy to improve the survival of children with brainstem gliomas.

The hope for better futures for kids with cancer relies on childhood cancer research. And that research relies — not only today but for decades to come — on the training of the next generation of childhood cancer researchers. This new investment of over $758,000 puts these young researchers on that path to finding new cures.

The next round of St. Baldrick’s grants – funded by donors like you – will be announced this summer.

Visit the St. Baldrick’s grants page to learn more about all the research you’re making possible. 

Donate now and help support research into better treatments for kids with cancer


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