Scientific Advisory Council

The CureSearch for Children’s Cancer Scientific Advisory Council was created in 2012 to develop and guide the organization’s scientific strategy, agenda, and grants program in a way that strengthened the value of our research outcomes by focusing on moving findings from the bench to the bedside as quickly as possible.

With the support of the Scientific Advisory Council, CureSearch funds laboratory research aimed at transcending research barriers and developing innovative research approaches to solve the field’s most challenging problems.

CureSearch Scientific Advisory committee members (click each for more info):

Richard J. O’Reilly, MD

Richard O'Reilly, MDChair, Scientific Advisory Council, CureSearch for Children’s Cancer

Chairman, Department of Pediatrics
Chief, Bone Marrow Transplantation Service
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
New York, NY

Richard J. O’Reilly, MD is Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics and Director of the Bone Marrow Transplantation Program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Richard J. O’Reilly has pioneered the development of curative marrow transplantation approaches for patients who lack HLA matched siblings. He and his colleagues introduced the use of matched unrelated donors and T-cell depleted transplants from HLA half matched donors in order to provide a normal blood system without GvHD to patients afflicted with lethal immune deficiencies and leukemia. His laboratory is currently exploring the potential of adoptive cell therapies employing immune cells grown in vitro to treat or prevent infections and recurrence of leukemia following transplantation.

Dr. O’Reilly received his M.D. from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in Rochester, New York in 1968. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston and specialty training in infectious disease at the Children’s Hospital and Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. He initiated the marrow transplant program at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 1974, and was appointed Director and Chief of the Transplant Program in Pediatrics in 1976. From 1976 until 2004, he was also Chief of the Allogeneic Marrow Transplantation Service in the Department of Medicine. He has also served as Chairman of the Department of Pediatrics since 1986. Dr. O’Reilly is the incumbent of the Claire L. Tow Chair in Pediatric Oncology Research.

He has received numerous honors since 1968, including the Lila Acheson Wallace Chair of Pediatric Research, the Louise and Allston Boyer-Young Investigator Award – Clinical Research, The Vincent Astor Chair of Clinical Research, Distinguished Alumnus Award – MSKCC, the Herman Boerhaave Medal from the University of Leiden, the McGovern Award of the Houston Academy of Medicine, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, the Pediatric Oncology Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Bob Pinedo Cancer Care Prize of the Society for Translational Oncology.

Dr. O’Reilly is the author or co-author of over 360 articles on the topic of bone marrow transplantation and transplantation immunology.

Richard J. Gilbertson, MD, PhD

Richard GilbertsonLi Ka Shing Chair of Oncology
Head of Dept. of Oncology
Director, Cambridge Cancer Center
CRUK Cambridge Institute
Cambridge, England

Dr. Richard Gilbertson trained as a pediatric oncologist in the UK where he earned his MD (1992) and PhD (1998) degrees, becoming a member of the Royal College of Physicians in 1995. He moved to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, in 2000 where he served as Director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, Executive Vice President, and Director of the Division of Brain Tumor Research. He held the Lillian R. Cannon Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Endowed Chair. In 2015, Dr. Gilbertson returned to the UK to direct the University of Cambridge Cancer Center as the Li Ka Shing Chair of Oncology.

His laboratory research is focused on understanding the link between normal development and the origins of cancer, particularly brain tumors. His lab was the first to describe a cancer stem cell niche in brain tumors; demonstrate that a solid cancer can arise from tissue specific stem cells; use innovative cross-species genomics to trace the developmental origins of pediatric brain tumors; and to use whole genome sequencing to identify novel subgroup-specific mutations in medulloblastoma. His research has been translated into numerous diagnostic tests and innovative clinical trials for children with cancer.

Alexander R. Judkins, MD

Alex JudkinsPathologist-in-Chief and Department Head
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles

Vice Chair of Department of Pathology
Keck School of Medicine of USC
Los Angeles, CA

Alexander Judkins, MD is the Pathologist-in-Chief and Department Head of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles and Vice Chair of the Department of Pathology at Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California. Dr. Judkins is widely recognized for his diagnostic expertise and research in pediatric brain tumors, particularly embryonal CNS neoplasm, including atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumors (AT/RT) and nonneoplastic pediatric neuropathology, where his focus has been on developmental malformations and the neuropathology of seizure disorders. He also has expertise in digital pathology and is working to build tools to integrate bioinformatics and pathology image data analysis.

Prior to joining CHLA, Dr. Judkins served as the Chief of the Division of Neuropathology, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He also served as the Director of their Pathology Core Laboratory and Assistant Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Dr. Judkins currently serves in editorial positions at a variety of journals and publications, including Brain Pathology, the Journal of Neuropathology & Experimental Neurology and Acta Neuropathologica.

A. Thomas Look, MD

Thomas LookProfessor, Department of Pediatrics
Harvard Medical School

Vice-Chair for Research, Pediatric Oncology
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, MA

A. Thomas Look, MD, is a Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Pediatric Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, as well as leader of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center’s Leukemia Program.

Over the past two decades, Dr. Look has published multiple peer-reviewed papers about the molecular basis of apoptosis and cancer and the application of molecular genetic findings to improve the treatment of childhood malignancies, particularly T-cell acute leukemia and neuroblastoma. He moved from St Jude Children’s Research Hospital to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 1999 specifically to establish a research program in the zebrafish model, to conduct genetic studies aimed at the identification of novel targets for cancer therapy, and is now internationally recognized as a leader in this field.

Dr. Look’s initial work led to the first transgenic model of leukemia in the zebrafish, paving the way for chemical and genome-wide genetic modifier screens in a vertebrate disease model. Recently, his laboratory developed the first zebrafish transgenic model of childhood neuroblastoma, opening up the opportunity to apply the powerful genetic technology available in the zebrafish to identify new molecular targets for therapy in this devastating childhood tumor.

He is the principal investigator on several NIH-funded grants, including a Program Project focusing on T-ALL pathogenesis. He also serves on numerous editorial boards for peer-reviewed journals, including Neoplasia, Cancer Research and the International Journal of Hematology.

Malcolm Brenner, MD, PhD

Dr. Malcolm BrennerProfessor, Department of Pediatrics, Section of Hematology-Oncology
Baylor College of Medicine

Director, Center for Cell and Gene Therapy
Texas Children’s Hospital
Houston, TX

Malcolm Brenner, MD, PhD, is Founding Director of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), Texas Children’s Hospital and The Methodist Hospital. He is a Distinguished Service professor, in the Departments of Pediatrics and of Medicine at BCM. Brenner received his medical degree and subsequent PhD from Cambridge University, England. Brenner’s clinical research interests span many aspects of stem cell transplantation, using genetic manipulation of cultured cells to obtain therapeutic effects. Efforts in Brenner’s laboratory to analyze the cell of origin when relapse occurs in patients with acute myelogenous leukemia led Brenner’s team to be the first to label autologous bone marrow cells genetically after purging, prior to being reintroduced to the patient. He is studying the effects of gene transfer into autologous neuroblastoma cells and the use of gene-modified EBV-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyctes for prevention and treatment of lymphoproliferative disorders, Hodgkin’s disease, lung cancer and neuroblastoma. His group recently pioneered the first clinical use of a new safety switch for cellular therapy.

Brenner is past Editor in Chief of “Molecular Therapy” and a former President of the American Society for Gene and Cell Therapy (ASGCT) and the International Society for Cell Therapy. He has won many awards for his work and in 2011 these including the ASGCT Outstanding Achievement Award and the American Society of Hematology Mentor Award.

Stephen P. Hunger, MD

Dr. Stephen HungerProfessor, Department of Pediatrics
Chief, Division of Pediatric Oncology
Director, Center for Childhood Cancer Research
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA

Dr. Stephen Hunger is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist who specializes in research and treatment regarding children, adolescents and young adults with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). He has authored more than 200 peer-reviewed manuscripts, almost all focused on pediatric ALL. Dr. Hunger is Chief of the Division of Pediatric Oncology and Director of the Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Hunger is the prior Vice-Chairman (2002-2007) and Chairman (2008-2015) of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) ALL Disease Committee. In these roles he has been responsible for oversight of the design and conduct of clinical trials and linked translational research studies that enroll over 2,000 children with ALL each year, including more than 70% of US children and adolescents diagnosed with ALL. Dr. Hunger leads the COG ALL TARGET (Therapeutically Applicable Research to Generate Effective Therapies) Project, that has conducted comprehensive studies of the genetic features of childhood ALL and revolutionized understanding of the genomic landscape of pediatric ALL. These findings are now being translated to clinical trials of targeted therapy in Philadelphia chromosome-like ALL. Dr. Hunger also has an interest in global health with a focus on improving treatment for children with ALL in low and middle income countries.

Donald Small, MD PhD

Dr. Donald SmallKyle Haydock Professor of Oncology
Professor of Oncology, Pediatrics, Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and Human Genetics
Director, Pediatric Oncology
Director, Johns Hopkins/National Cancer Institute Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship Program
Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, MD

Don Small received his undergraduate, MD, and PhD degrees from the Johns Hopkins University (1979, 1985). He trained in pediatrics and pediatric hematology/oncology at Hopkins. During his pediatric Hematology/Oncology fellowship, he studied the role of a number of proteins in DNA replication. He joined the Hopkins faculty in 1990, and was named the Kyle Haydock Professor of Oncology in 2003, with joint appointments in Pediatrics, Cellular and Molecular Medicine, and Human Genetics. He has served as Director of Pediatric Oncology at Johns Hopkins since 2006.

His laboratory was the first to clone the human FLT3 gene, which is the most frequently mutated gene in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). He led the team that investigated the role of FLT3 in leukemia and was the first to discover drugs capable of inhibiting the tyrosine kinase activity of FLT3. This research revealed that this class of drugs could preferentially kill leukemic cell lines and primary AML samples expressing mutant FLT3–one of the first successful molecularly targeted cancer therapies. His lab also developed a high-throughput cell-based in vitro assay that facilitated screening of a large library of kinase inhibitors and identification of several with great potency and selectivity against FLT3. His group led the first clinical trials investigating the use of a FLT3 inhibitor in adult relapsed and refractory FLT3-mutant AML, and determined how best to combine these drugs with chemotherapy. The team also helped design the first pediatric trials of FLT3 inhibitors for use in treating pediatric AML and infant ALL.

His lab continues to investigate the process of leukemic transformation, the role of FLT3 in leukemia stem cells utilizing mouse models, and signaling changes in leukemic stem cells.

Loren D. Walensky, MD, PhD

Dr Loren WalenskyAssociate Professor, Department of Pediatrics
Attending Physician in Pediatric Oncology
Principal Investigator, Linde Program in Cancer Chemical Biology
Director, Harvard/MIT MD-PhD Program
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Boston, MA

Loren D. Walensky, MD, PhD, is a Principal Investigator and Attending Physician in the Department of Pediatric Oncology and the Linde Program in Cancer Chemical Biology at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, and Director of the Harvard/MIT MD-PhD Program.

Dr. Walensky’s research focuses on the chemical biology of deregulated apoptotic and transcriptional pathways in cancer and other pediatric diseases. The goal of his laboratory is to develop an arsenal of new compounds – a “chemical toolbox” – to investigate and block pathologic protein interactions. Dr. Walensky has broken new ground in our understanding of BCL-2 family protein interactions, which govern the critical balance between cellular life and death. His team has generated highly specific and stable “stapled peptides” that preserve the structure of biologically-active alpha-helices, maximizing their potential as novel tools to elucidate biological pathways and as prototype therapies for cancer, infectious diseases, and diabetes. His research contributed to the founding of Aileron Therapeutics, a Cambridge, Massachusetts biotechnology company, which has advanced to clinical trials a first-in-class stapled peptide drug to reactivate p53 in cancer, developed based on Dr. Walensky’s work.

Dr. Walensky is the recipient of numerous awards including a Stand Up to Cancer Innovative Research Grant, an NIH Director’s Transformative RO1 Award, a Burroughs Wellcome Career Award in the Biomedical Sciences, a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholar Award, a Harvard Medical School Young Mentor Award, and most recently, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Morse Award for Research Excellence, the Samuel Rosenthal Prize for Excellence in Academic Pediatrics, the E. Mead Johnson Award for Pediatric Research, and an NCI Outstanding Investigator R35 Award. He is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Society for Pediatric Research, and the American Pediatric Society.

Scientific Advisory Council was last modified: June 29th, 2016 by Geoff Duncan

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