Grants - V Scholar Grants - Colorado - 2021

Siddhartha Mitra, PhD

Funded by the Constellation Gold Network Distributors in honor of the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund

Brain cancers have recently surpassed blood cancers as the most common cause of cancer-related death in children. The big question we ask here is how we can make cancers easy to destroy from the inside by the body’s own soldiers. Modern cancer-treating drugs utilize the body’s defense mechanism to destroy tumors and have shown promising results against several cancers. However, most of these drugs have been developed against adult tumors and do not always behave similarly against childhood cancers. Furthermore, a lack of suitable targets that can differentiate childhood brain cancers from normal cells prevents the safe treatment of childhood cancers. This is more so due to our lack of understanding by which cancer cells hide from the body’s soldiers, especially in brain cancer.  While significant progress has been made in the care of children with medulloblastoma, some of those patients still suffer a lot. The cells create a signal on their surface which identifies healthy cells from diseased cells. It tells a particular type of cell called macrophages not to eat these cells. Macro meaning big and phages meaning eater mean Big Eater. The body uses some proteins to protect cells that should remain and help dispose of diseased cells. Cancers use this to create a force field to protect themselves. In this grant we will test how to reduce this force field on the surface so we can use the bodies soldiers to eat up the tumor.