Since launching the Acceleration Initiative (AI) in 2013, CureSearch has broken new ground in the children’s cancer research field — allowing us to transcend the barriers of a broken system and establish a new pathway to end childhood cancer.
Through the $10 million Acceleration Initiative, CureSearch elicits and invests in the best, most innovative pediatric cancer research. We bring together the brightest thought leaders in the field today to agree to the areas of greatest challenge in the children’s cancer research field. We then target specific grants to resolve those challenges and accelerate the search for cures.
All AI projects are marked by the following characteristics:
- Highly innovative with the potential to break new ground in the field.
- Probability of clinical application (i.e. ready to reach patients within 3 years — an accelerated time frame).
- Help overcome scientific and therapeutic roadblocks to speed up the delivery of promising interventions (i.e. transcends a broken system to end childhood cancer).
Acceleration Initiative – An Outcome Driven Approach in Three Phases
The Acceleration Initiative has been implemented in three phases. The $5 million AI-1 portfolio, initiated in 2014, is focused on three discreet challenges facing the children’s cancer research field: halting metastatic disease; addressing refractory disease and treatment toxicity; and developing a novel therapeutic approach.
AI-2 began in March 2015 in partnership with the Switzerland-based Rising Tide Foundation for Clinical Cancer Research. The $2 million AI-2 International Grand Challenge Awards address two critical challenges in pediatric cancer treatments: creating novel approaches to children’s cancer survivorship; and accelerating the delivery of new therapeutic agents for pediatric patients.
AI-3 will begin in fall of 2015. The $2-3 million domestic (US) Grand Challenge Awards will address two to three critical challenges in pediatric cancer treatments that are to be determined.
Acceleration Initiative Grant Recipients
The first three grants in the AI-1 portfolio were announced in September 2013 and are focused on three discrete challenges facing the children’s cancer research field:
Challenge: Halting Metastatic Disease
Investigator: Mary Beckerle, PhD
Institution: University of Utah – Huntsman Cancer Institute
Project Title: “Epigenetic Regulation of Ewing Sarcoma: A Novel Approach to Influence Tumor Phenotype and Metastasis“
Ewing sarcoma is the second most common bone cancer in children — yet it is a challenging cancer to treat. Typically, by the time it is diagnosed, the cancer has spread. Many patients also relapse after initial chemotherapy and surgeries. Yet, the Huntsman team has made great strides in reaching a life-saving breakthrough for Ewing Sarcoma patients. By targeting and inhibiting the growth of a specific enzyme on which the cancer feeds, the team expects to also be able to halt the growth and spread of disease. The treatment that may result will be far less toxic than conventional therapy, and may provide increasing returns by proving effective for other cancers in both children and adults. This kind of exponential impact is a hallmark of Acceleration Initiative research, and demonstrative of how CureSearch intends to end childhood cancer by moving treatment quickly from bench to bedside. Read more
Challenge: Addressing Refractory Disease/Treatment Toxicity
Investigator: William Weiss, MD, PhD
Institution: University of California – San Francisco
Project Title: “Overcoming Resistance in High-Risk Medulloblastoma“
CureSearch projects address difficult to treat cancers to improve the odds even for disease types and populations that haven’t shown as much improvement as the field as a whole. This project hopes to improve outcomes for patients who do not respond to treatment for high risk medulloblastoma. Survival rates for this high risk disease are 60-65%. If a child is an infant when diagnosed and the cancer is localized, survival rates can be as low as 30-50%. Recently, Dr. Weiss’ team uncovered parallels between genes involved in medulloblastoma and genes in other, more common cancers. As a result, they have been able to apply insights from those more common cancer treatments to improve therapies for brain tumors. This work promises to identify compounds that are already in the clinic or about to enter trials, or FDA approved, and re-purpose them to better treat medulloblastoma. Read more
Challenge: Developing a Novel Therapeutic Approach
Investigator: Kathleen Sakomoto, MD, PhD
Institution: Stanford University
Project Title: “Development of CD47 Monoclonal Antibody Therapy for Pediatric Tumors“
Dr. Sakamoto and Dr. Weissman at Stanford University have been working on a novel treatment for malignant tumors in children, with a focus on pediatric brain tumors. They have developed an innovative treatment approach to harness the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. The project intentionally includes an analysis of not just whether the treatment was effective, but what side effects it produced, and at what dosage the treatment could minimize negative impact on patients. After a year of testing, the team is thrilled to report that the treatment reduced tumor size without significant side effects. The treatment has moved into adult clinical trial phase, and is being explored for efficacy among additional cancer types. Read more
Acceleration Initiative Grantees
From left to right: William L. Carroll, MD; Stuart Siegel, MD; Sid Midtra, PhD; William Weiss, MD, PhD; Mary Beckerle, PhD; CureSearch CEO Laura Thrall