MINNEAPOLIS, May 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The St. Baldrick's Foundation, the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants, awarded Charles Mullighan, MBBS (Hons), MSc, MD, the first-ever St. Baldrick's Foundation Robert J. Arceci Innovation Award at today's American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASHPO) conference.
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.
"It is no small feat to do justice to Bob's memory and the impact he made on the childhood cancer community. The opportunity to honor his legacy in the form of something that continues his innovative work and offers hope to the children he dedicated his life to, is a beautiful thing to be part of," said Kathleen Ruddy, CEO of the St. Baldrick's Foundation. "Looking to the future, we are excited to see what's next and are fully confident in Dr. Mullighan's passion, approach and innovative research."
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.
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. Mullighan the ability to pursue whatever leads he uncovers, and to focus on discovery and making a difference for patients.
"This award in his memory is such a wonderful and rare thing, so far from the norm, to have the freedom to pursue research wherever it leads," said Dr. Mullighan, co-leader of the Hematological Malignancies Program at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Dr. Mullighan plans to use this award to continue his work to understand the genetic changes that ultimately make cells become a tumor, and to understand why, even with some of today's most exciting treatment advances, some patients' cancers don't respond to it. His studies have already resulted in new diagnostic approaches and targets for therapy. Dr. Mullighan's approach to studying the genetics of acute lymphoblastic leukemia was met with skepticism in 2004, but was validated by his landmark publication in 2007. That study has driven an entire field of research and provided important lessons for cancer genetics in general.
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