Dr. Heather Wilson-Robles, an associate professor and the Dr. Fred A. and Vola N. Palmer Chair in Comparative Oncology in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Small Animal Clinical Sciences Department, has been awarded a $94,255 research grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to support her studies of childhood bone cancer.
“Dr. Wilson-Robles is a quintessential clinician-scholar whose independent and collaborative discoveries are carving the path to a better understanding of cancer and, ultimately, to effective cancer treatments in canine patients that will eventually translate to human patients,” said Dr. Eleanor M. Green, the Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University.
Wilson-Robles’ grant is one of 90 given to professors from across the country by St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The foundation is providing $23.5 million in its summer grant cycle to support the brightest minds in the pediatric cancer field.
“For nearly a decade, Dr. Wilson-Robles has conducted leading-edge clinical trials that impact human and animal health,” said Dr. Jonathan Levine, department head, professor, and Helen McWhorter Chair in Small Animal Clinical Sciences. “This grant represents an exciting extension of her work on bone cancer, this time exploring the lethal spread of tumor cells to other sites in the body.”
Her project, funded through June 2018, will examine a new drug that targets the cells that spread; this process has shown promise as a therapy.
“Bone cancer is an aggressive disease in both children and pet dogs that can be painful and often leads to death of the patient even with aggressive surgery and chemotherapy,” Wilson-Robles said. “Most often these patients die because the tumor has spread to other areas of the body, not from the original bone tumor, which is often removed with surgery. Therefore, in order to better battle this disease, new therapies that target the cells that spread are needed.
“Our goal is to more thoroughly investigate this drug for its ability to prevent or delay spread of the tumor cells using both human and dog bone tumor cells,” she said.
Every two minutes a child is diagnosed with cancer worldwide. One in five kids diagnosed in the U.S. will not survive, and of those who do, two-thirds will suffer from long-term effects from the very treatment that saved their life; each phase of the research process, from the laboratory to translational research to clinical trials, plays a crucial part in developing new therapies that will give kids with cancer the healthy childhoods they deserve.
“St. Baldrick’s leads the charge to take childhood back from cancer and is dedicated to funding the best research, no matter where it takes place,” said Kathleen Ruddy, CEO of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. “Through our grants, we are proud to support world-class experts of today, as well as the next generation of researchers whose innovative approaches employ cutting-edge technology and emerging science to find cures and treatments to create a growing generation of childhood cancer survivors.”