Big Ideas

Katherine K. Matthay, M.D.

October 5, 2011

Dr. Kate Matthay of the University of California San Francisco Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center was awarded a V Foundation Designated Grant in 2008 to support her work on neuroblastoma. This is a cancer type that occurs in very young children. Children diagnosed with neuroblastoma often do not survive due to the widespread nature of the cancer at the time of diagnosis.

Matthay’s research focuses on identifying genes predisposed to and/or cause neuroblastoma and preventing the cancer from developing. Current treatments for neuroblastoma include chemotherapy treatment and surgery.

The V Foundation grant proved critical to Matthay’s research because it helped support work that targeted a specific problem gene that makes the cancer grow and spread much more aggressively. Her team is developing a compound which inhibits an enzyme that allows the gene to make the cancer spread.

With the grant, they are ready to start combined targeted radiation therapy clinical trials in children. The combined targeted radiation therapy will be less harmful and aggressive, reducing painful side effects.

Matthay credits The V Foundation grant for allowing her the time and the money for research, and it has allowed her team to apply for National Institute of Health funding, as well as more extensive clinical trials. Currently, only 30–40% of children suffering from neuroblastoma survive. However, with new developments in treatment, children are able to stay alive for many years in some cases.