Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Feature:
Dr. Bindra, CureSearch Trailblazer
CureSearch works with innovative pediatric cancer researchers – funding only the most promising studies to push forward treatments and cures. This includes trailblazers like Dr. Ranjit Bindra of the Yale Cancer Center. Earlier this year, we granted Dr. Bindra and his team nearly $1 million for a phase 1 clinical trial testing a novel treatment for pediatric glioma, an aggressive brain cancer with a 5-year survival rate of less than 25%.
Read more about why Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is especially important to research trailblazers like Dr. Bindra.
Tell us about your background in childhood cancer research and your leadership in the space.
It was during my radiation oncology residency at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, while under the mentorship of Dr. Suzanne Wolden, that I realized I wanted to devote a large portion of my time on pediatric cancers. I had the opportunity to meet and take care of a 3-year-old patient with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a type of brain cancer, who subsequently succumbed to her disease approximately two years later.
In 2012, I opened up my own independent laboratory at Yale, and I also became a pediatric radiation oncology attending at Yale. My group developed an interest in high-throughput screening for novel drugs that target pediatric cancer-associated mutations. Within two years of starting our lab, we were fortunate to have been awarded a CureSearch Young Investigator award for three years. This award allowed us to form critical infrastructure for drug screening campaigns, which we use even today.
Since then, CureSearch has also granted us a nearly $1 million Catapult Award to support our study on pediatric gliomas, which will be vital for the success of this trial. The grant will fund a new center at Yale, called “BrainStorm,” a brain tumor core focused on developing the most innovative correlative studies for pediatric cancer clinical trials. With CureSearch’s help, our group is committed to accelerating the most innovative bench science into clinical trials specifically focused on pediatric cancers. We have been fortunate to have received from support from the CureSearch foundation at critical value inflection points during the development of our program, and we would not be at this stage without it.
As the 2018 Catapult Award recipient – what is your hope for the future of childhood cancer?
We feel that have just scratched the surface for what we can do to treat pediatric cancers. That is, we believe that there are many novel approaches that can employed to both target and exploit tumor-associated mutations. As such, it is clear to us that the coming years will bring forward entirely new, disruptive and innovative clinical trials that target specific pediatric cancer mutations. In the past, targeting sub-groups of rare cancers has thought to have been not possible or feasible (e.g., how would we accrue patients to these studies in a timely manner?).
However, our group and others have been extremely vocal in conveying a message to the pediatric cancer research community, that being to follow the biology. We believe that if the science is sound, patients will come. This message is finally resonating, and that as a result we will start to see new classes of therapies for pediatric cancers, which have the potential to make meaningful improvements in survival for these diseases.
Why do you choose to support CureSearch and our mission?
CureSearch funds all stages of research, from the young investigator to the established, and it truly bridges the gap to the clinic. CureSearch funding has been essential for my group to develop critical infrastructure in our laboratory, which we will use for years to come. They’re involved in every step of the process – the CureSearch research strategy will benefit children by getting new therapies faster into the clinic. I cannot think of any other pediatric cancer foundation that operates at the level of CureSearch.
Why is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month important to you?
Pediatric cancers are devastating diseases, as the ripple effects of just one child suffering from their diagnosis spreads for miles and miles. I saw this as a pediatric brain tumor doctor, who is closely involved with the clinical care of children often with incurable tumors. In parallel, funding for pediatric cancer research is severely limited and thus foundations are essential for research. This month is important for people to remember that as a society, we have a commitment to protect our children, and saving them from devastating diseases like cancer are among the top on the list. We have a lot of work to do in terms of new therapies for pediatric cancer, and with increased recognition of the problem, as well as enhanced funding, we are poised to make great strides in this area.
We’re all in this together! CureSearch leads the way as a convener, bringing together the right people to further children’s cancer research. And we know we couldn’t do it without you! This Childhood Cancer Awareness Month (CCAM), we want to hear from you. Use social media to tell the world why you are in the fight against children’s cancer and use #TogetherCuringCancer and tag @CureSearch – you may just be featured on our Facebook or Twitter pages!
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