Grants - V Scholar Grants - Tennessee - 2019

Vivian Weiss, M.D., Ph.D.

Funded by the Tyler Trent Fund and the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund

A critical failure in the field of pediatric thyroid cancer care is the use of adult treatments for a childhood disease that has distinct genetics and tumor behavior. With thyroid cancer incidence rapidly increasing, we need to develop personalized treatments for this population to ensure their long and productive lives. There is currently no way to predict which children will go on to develop recurrent or aggressive disease at the time of biopsy and thyroid surgery. While thyroid cancer is generally curable, adolescents and young adults present with more frequent local and metastatic disease when compared to older adults. Adult treatment protocols lead to high cure rates, but adolescents and young adults have many years of potential recurrence, radioactivity-induced side effects, and secondary malignancies ahead. Precision medicine is becoming the standard of care for many diseases except pediatric thyroid cancer.

To develop more individualized pediatric thyroid cancer care, the scientific community must first strive to better understand the mutations and abnormal cellular signaling responsible for thyroid cancer behavior. Our research program utilizes a large cohort of adolescent and young adult human thyroid tumors in order to study the signaling pathways responsible for the unique growth and spread of each tumor. The funds from the Pediatric Cancer V Scholar Award will lead to an improved understanding of thyroid cancer development in this population and innovative therapies for children with this disease. These treatment strategies can then be applied to a wide range of pediatric cancers with reliance on similar signaling pathways.