LOS ANGELES, Oct. 20, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The St. Baldrick's Foundation, the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants, awarded Sam Behjati, Ph.D., BMBCh the first-ever international St. Baldrick's Foundation Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award at today's International Society of Paediatric Oncology conference in Dublin, Ireland.
This one-of-a-kind award was created in memory of renowned oncologist Dr. Robert J. Arceci, known as "Bob" to those close to him. Dr. Arceci served as director of the Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Hematology and Oncology and co-director of the Ronald A. Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine at Phoenix Children's Hospital in Arizona. He treated countless children; was an international authority in many areas of pediatric cancer research; he developed groundbreaking documentaries to educate the public about the realities of childhood cancers; and was the editor of the only international medical journal devoted to childhood cancer research, "Pediatric Blood & Cancer." As a member of the St. Baldrick's board and chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee, Dr. Arceci had supported the idea of a new type of funding, but before conversations could take place, he died in a hit-and-run motorcycle accident.
"Bob made a profound impact on the childhood cancer community and this grant is intended to continue his legacy by encouraging early career scientists, both in the U.S. and abroad, to think outside the box, daring them to innovate and challenge themselves," said Kathleen Ruddy, CEO of the St. Baldrick's Foundation. "We are excited to see what comes of this unique grant and Dr. Behjati's future projects, as the research 'freedom' afforded by it should further his passion and bold approach."
Each year, two recipients will be chosen for the St. Baldrick's Foundation Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award, one from the U.S. or Canada, the other chosen internationally. Each will receive $250,000 a year for three years, with no research restrictions other than to report on the results of their work every six months.
Charles Mullighan, MBBS (Hons), MSc, MD, co-leader of the Hematological Malignancies Program at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, was the first U.S. based researcher to receive the Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award earlier this year at the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASHPO) conference.
Typically, the recipient of a grant must follow their presented plan carefully – no room to color outside the lines or pursue a new line of discovery without limitations. The Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award gives Dr. Behjati the ability to pursue whatever leads he uncovers, and to focus on discovery and making a difference for patients.
"This grant revolutionizes my scientific life," said Dr. Behjati, Wellcome Trust Intermediate Clinical Fellow, "The St. Baldrick's Foundation has given me the liberty to do some bold and high-risk experiments, which I would not be able to do otherwise."
Dr. Behjati plans to continue his work on understanding the cancer genome – the genetic changes that give rise to childhood cancer. He hopes to explore single cell sequencing technologies to understand where cancer cells come from and what the alternative fate of cancer cells might be. By understanding this path, Dr. Behjati believes it might be possible to redirect a cancer cell to become something less harmful.
All nominations were reviewed by a committee made up of experts as far away as Paris and Hong Kong, including leaders of ASPHO, the Children's Oncology Group and the International Society of Paediatric Oncology, as well as two parent advocates who serve on the St. Baldrick's board.
Visit the St. Baldrick's blog to learn more.
About St. Baldrick's Foundation
As the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants, the St. Baldrick's Foundation believes that kids are special and deserve to be treated that way. St. Baldrick's funds are granted to some of the most brilliant childhood cancer research experts in the world and to innovative explorers who bring with them the promise of a future free from childhood cancers. Kids need treatments as unique as they are – and that starts with funding research just for them. Join us at StBaldricks.org to help support the best cancer treatments for kids.
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SOURCE St. Baldrick's Foundation