Childhood Cancer

Two Canadian Pediatric Cancer Researchers Share 2019 US/Canada Arceci Award

by St. Baldrick's Foundation
May 8, 2019

“Same old, same old … doesn’t count.” Bob Arceci didn’t think that old methods were going to tackle pediatric cancers. As you can hear him talk about in this video, he was looking for new ideas, for thinking that wasn’t just “out of the box,” but never really in the box in the first place.

Drs. Shlien and Daugaard are shown accepting the Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award.Drs. Shlien and Daugaard accept the Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award.

When the St. Baldrick’s Foundation first created the Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award in Dr. Bob’s honor, the goal was to find new and innovative ways of looking at pediatric cancers, and to help fund those researchers who could run with unique ideas. The “same old, same old” wouldn’t go very far with St. Baldrick’s Selection Committee – and this year’s recipients are evidence of that innovative thinking.

St. Baldrick’s makes two Arceci Award announcements each year: one in the spring, to a researcher in the US or Canada, announced at the ASPHO (American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Conference, taking place this year in New Orleans), and one to a researcher outside of the US or Canada, announced at the SIOP (International Society of Paediatric Oncology) meeting each fall.

This spring, because of a tie between two outstanding nominees, two researchers will share in the award. The award has not gone to a Canadian recipient before, and this time, by coincidence, both recipients work in cancer research laboratories in Canada.

The 2019 “US/Canada” recipients of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award are Dr. Mads Daugaard and Dr. Adam Shlien. Each of these doctors will receive $125,000 a year for three years to support their innovative work focused on fighting pediatric cancers.

Today on the blog, we’ll explore each of the recipients, why they were chosen, and what they hope to achieve with these grants.

Dr. Mads Daugaard

Dr. Daugaard has been part of the St. Baldrick’s – Stand Up to Cancer Pediatric Dream Team since its inception.* He received his Ph.D. in Molecular Cancer Biology and Pathology from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and is now affiliated with the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. His lab sits at the Vancouver Prostate Centre, which was created as a urologic cancer research center, but now facilitates a broad spectrum of translational cancer research programs in both adult and childhood solid tumors.

In the nomination materials, Dr. Daugaard was lauded by his mentors and peers for being a “unique and outstanding young researcher…[who] will make important contributions to childhood cancer research in the years to come.”

One way he has shown this promise is by discovering an “evolutionarily conserved malaria protein” that could be harnessed to target various types of childhood and adult cancers. He has also led research around the discovery that most solid pediatric and adult tumors re-express a unique type of glycosmaminoglycan (GAG) that is normally restricted to the placenta.

Dr. Adam Shlien

Dr. Shlien received his Ph.D. from the Department of Medical Biophysics at the University of Toronto and the Genetics and Genome Biology Program at SickKids in 2010. Before joining Toronto’s SickKids Research Institute, where he now works, he studied at the Sanger Institute in Cambridge, England, working under Sir Michael Stratton in one of the most prestigious and prolific groups in the cancer field.

His letters of recommendation talk about his “game-changing research,” including his 2017 study which suggests that, someday, cancers may not be classified by their tissue of origin (such as “brain cancer” or “bone cancer”) but by the number and type of genetic mutations they carry.

Dr. Shlien, who co-Directs the SickKids Cancer Sequencing Program, says that one of his hopes is “to understand the genesis of pediatric cancers by studying the mutations that arose long before the patient’s cancer was clinically detected.” He considers it “a fundamental unanswered question on the topic of mutation timing and patterns in childhood cancer.”

How Your Donations Fund This Important Research

Dr. Arceci was a creative man, and one of the ways these awards honor his legacy is by stressing creativity in research. The grants have none of the restrictions of normal grant applications, allowing for the researchers – who have already proven their abilities to tackle complex problems – to be as creative as possible in attempting to conquer childhood cancers.

According to Becky Chapman Weaver, Chief Mission Officer, St. Baldrick’s Foundation: “We know how important it is to let researchers think outside the box, and we know that some of the most innovative ideas come from tackling some of the most unusual questions. Dr. Daugaard and Dr. Shlein bring that creativity and innovative thinking to tackling these vital problems.”

Your donations to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation give our organization the chance to fund research like this. This is just one of many examples of St. Baldrick’s funding to keep the pediatric cancer research field vibrant, with new and innovative research in full view. Because we’re all committed to putting kids’ cancers in the rear-view mirror.

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*Formerly known as the St. Baldrick’s – Stand Up to Cancer Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, this team is now the St. Baldrick’s EPICC Team (Empowering Pediatric Immunotherapies for Childhood Cancer).