Case Western Reserve University Researchers Receive Funding for Promising Childhood Cancer Research

Two Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine researchers are receiving new funding from California-based St. Baldrick’s Foundation for promising childhood cancer research.

Reshmi Parameswaran, PhD, assistant professor of hematology and oncology, was awarded $330,000 to develop safer cancer therapies for children using their own immune cells, helping avoid the significant physical and emotional consequences that can result from other, more toxic treatments.

She will be targeting acute myeloid leukemia, the second most common form of acute leukemia in children. “Existing treatment methods are not very effective and the disease comes back in 50 percent of patients,” said Parameswaran. “Therefore, there is an urgent need for a better treatment procedure. We are developing an improved method to treat acute myeloid leukemia in children, with their own so-called ‘natural killer’ cells.” Natural killer cells are immune cells in the body which can kill cancer cells. Cancer cells escape from killer cells by making them less active by producing a protein called transforming growth factor beta. Parameswaran will use methods to work to neutralize the effects of transforming growth factor beta on natural killer cell activity. This will keep these cells active in patients, thus creating a better option to treat children affected with acute myeloid leukemia.

Also, Nora L. Nock, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and biostatistics, has received a $50,000 grant to conduct a pilot study of ‘cybercycling’ (stationary cycling with interactive video gaming) to improve fitness and quality of life in adolescent and young adult cancer survivors. Nock will also evaluate the potential of ‘cybercycling’ to increase motivation to exercise and improve body composition, cognition, and sleep, as well as reduce fatigue and depression.

“Young people with cancer have a greater risk of developing secondary cancers; cardiovascular, metabolic, and bone diseases; and cognitive impairments, which can lower their survival rates

and decrease their quality of life,” said Nock. “Additionally, most do not meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity, which can lower their cardiorespiratory fitness. While randomized trials in adult cancer survivors have shown that exercise can improve fitness and quality of life, there have only been a few studies involving young people with cancer. Our trial will target the unique needs and preferences of young people with cancer, who have asked for fun and enjoyable exercise programs to enhance motivation and coping.”

St. Baldrick’s Foundation is the nation’s largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants.

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Founded in 1843, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is the largest medical research institution in Ohio and is among the nation's top medical schools for research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The School of Medicine is recognized throughout the international medical community for outstanding achievements in teaching. The School's innovative and pioneering Western Reserve2 curriculum interweaves four themes--research and scholarship, clinical mastery, leadership, and civic professionalism--to prepare students for the practice of evidence-based medicine in the rapidly changing health care environment of the 21st century. Nine Nobel Laureates have been affiliated with the School of Medicine.

Annually, the School of Medicine trains more than 800 MD and MD/PhD students and ranks in the top 25 among U.S. research-oriented medical schools as designated by U.S. News & World Report's "Guide to Graduate Education."

The School of Medicine is affiliated with University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, MetroHealth Medical Center, the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic, with which it established the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in 2002.

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