Home » Simmons Family Foundation awards collaborative research grants
The fund was formed to promote novel solutions to difficult medical problems, such as brain tumors
January 31, 2011 – Texas Children’s Hospital
Biomarkers and brain tumors are the focus of new research funded in the third annual round of grants by the Virginia and L.E. Simmons Family Foundation Collaborative Research Fund.
The $3 million, five-year initiative to discover new ways to diagnose and treat diseases supports collaboration among researchers at Rice University, Texas Children’s Hospital and The Methodist Hospital Research Institute (TMHRI).
Successful initial findings will ideally lead the researchers to pursue further funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and other organizations.
The fund was formed to promote novel solutions to difficult medical problems through the combined expertise of Texas Medical Center scientists, engineers and physicians who might not otherwise collaborate.
“The proposals we received this year truly fulfilled the intent of the Simmons Foundation awards,” said James Coleman, Rice’s vice provost for research and a member of the selection committee. “Researchers are developing tremendous collaborations across the Texas Medical Center, and we only wish we could fund more of their initiatives.”
A team led by Chris Tsz-Kwong Man, a researcher at Texas Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at BCM, hopes to transform the treatment of medulloblastomas, the most common type of brain cancer in children and one that also affects adults.
The researchers will leverage the massive amount of data on childhood medulloblastomas generated by Man’s lab at Texas Children’s to characterize the four known subtypes of the disease and create novel therapies for children and adult patients.
Collaborators include Stephen Wong, director of the Center for Bioengineering and Informatics at TMHRI; Dr. Ching Lau, clinical director of the Texas Children’s Cancer Center (TCCC) Brain Tumor Program; Rudy Guerra, a Rice professor of statistics; Pamela New, a neuro-oncologist at TMHRI; Suzanne Powell, chief of neuropathology at TMHRI; and Robert Grossman, director of the Methodist Neurological Institute and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery at The Methodist Hospital.
Awards of $55,000 were granted to the following projects:
An effort led by Dr. Jason Shohet, research co-chair of the neuroblastoma program at TCCC, will develop novel therapies to treat high-risk neuroblastoma, which accounts for almost 15 percent of all pediatric cancer deaths.
Texas Children’s was the first laboratory to identify and isolate cells in primary neuroblastoma tumors that act very much like cancer stem cells, which “provides the unique opportunity to study these cells and design therapies to specifically target them, which we believe will help cure many more children,” the researchers wrote.
Collaborators are Xiaobo Zhou, an associate member of the Bioengineering and Bioinformatics Program at TMHRI, and Preethi Gunaratne of the University of Houston and BCM.