Sanford Burnham Prebys researchers awarded Curebound grants

| Written by Miles Martin
Aninyda Bagchi, Ph.D., Linda Bradley, Lukas Chavez, Ph.D., Nicholas Cosford, Ph.D., and Michael Jackson, Ph.D.
l-r: Anindya Bagchi, Lukas Chavez, Linda Bradley, Nicholas Cosford and Michael Jackson

Each year, Sanford Burnham Prebys joins Padres Pedal the Cause, an annual fundraising event that raises money for Curebound which awards collaborative cancer grants in the San Diego area.

These grants include Discovery Grants, which provide seed funds for high-risk/high-reward research in the earliest phases, and Targeted Grants, which are larger awards ($500K) that help translate promising discoveries into treatments for the clinic.

In the 2022-2023 Curebound Research portfolio, five researchers from Sanford Burnham Prebys were awarded grants: Associate Professor Anindya Bagchi, Ph.D., Professor Linda Bradley, Ph.D., Assistant Professor Lukas Chavez, Ph.D., Professor Nicholas Cosford, Ph.D., and Professor Michael Jackson, Ph.D.

2022 Discovery Grant: Treating incurable pediatric brain tumors 
Bagchi and Chavez will collaborate to advance a new therapeutic approach for medulloblastoma, the most common childhood brain tumor. They will be focusing on a gene called MYC, found only in the deadliest forms of medulloblastoma. This form of brain cancer is currently untreatable, but Bagchi and Chavez recently discovered a molecule that can help control the activity of the MYC gene and potentially inhibit the growth of medulloblastoma tumors. The researcher holds promise to reveal a new treatment approach for this incurable cancer. 

The grant is titled “Decoding the Role of the Long Non-Coding RNA PVT1 in Medulloblastoma.”

2023 Targeted Grant: Discovering a new immunotherapy drug for melanoma
Bradley will be working with Soo Jin Park, M.D., from UC San Diego Health to advance a new immunotherapy approach for malignant melanoma. Despite recent advances, this type of skin cancer still causes thousands of deaths in the U.S. each year. The goal of their project is to develop a new drug for melanoma that can reactivate the tumor-killing properties of the patient's own immune system. This therapeutic approach has the potential to destroy tumors that are resistant to existing therapies, which could help save lives.

The grant is titled, "Advancing Immune Checkpoint Inhibition of PSGL-1 for Treatment of Malignant Melanoma.

2022 Discovery Grant: Developing drugs for bone-metastatic prostate cancer
Cosford will work with Christina Jamieson, Ph.D., from the University of California, San Diego, to advance a new treatment approach for prostate cancer that has spread to the bones. Bone is the most common place for prostate cancer to metastasize, and this form of cancer is currently incurable. The researchers will look for drugs that can kill tumor cells by inhibiting autophagy, a process that promotes tumor progression. The results of the study could identify a new drug ready for clinical trials.

The grant is titled “Pre-Clinical Development of New Autophagy Targeting Drugs for Bone Metastatic Prostate Cancer.”

2022 Discovery Grant: Repurposing drugs for deadly childhood brain cancer
Jackson and Chavez will collaborate to identify new treatment options for ependymoma, an aggressive pediatric brain tumor and leading cause of death among childhood cancer patients. The researchers will screen patient tumor cells against drugs already approved by the FDA for other conditions, looking for drugs that could be repurposed to fight these tumors. Because FDA-approved drugs are known to be safe for humans, this may prove to be the quickest way to help patients currently living with this cancer. 

The grant is titled “High Throughput-Screen for Inhibitors of Pediatric Ependymoma.”

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