On June 5th 2024, The Children’s Cancer Foundation, Inc. (CCF) hosted the 8th Annual Research Symposium. Entitled “Research on the Horizon: Challenges and Promise”, the symposium brought together pediatric cancer researchers with survivors, advocates, cancer care teams and community leaders to share the latest local pediatric cancer research breakthroughs.

Launched in 2016, and the brainchild of CCF Scientific Advisory Board Chair Jeffrey Toretsky, M.D., of Georgetown University’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, the CCF Research Symposium is based on the belief that small local research dialogue will go a long way toward substantial research collaboration.

Unique among scientific research conferences, the symposium emphasizes local participation, an extensive poster session, research from younger investigators, and non-scientific community engagement. This one-day event encourages small group discussion and the opportunity for those in their early career to make connections and gain visibility to succeed in the underfunded field of pediatric oncology.

Participants shared that Keynote speaker Julia Glade Bender, M.D., of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, was incredibly inspiring as she shared practical actions to help advance drug development for pediatric cancer. Other presenters, representing the National Cancer Institute, Children’s National, Johns Hopkins, and Georgetown University, shared  in-depth findings from their research on topics like immunotherapy, malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors, and rhabdomyosarcoma. Each 2023 CCF Research Grant recipient presented their funded research progress during the poster session, and a few, including Yiouli Ktena, M.D., the 2023 Giant Food NextGen Grant awardee, gave talks. Recordings of all speaker presentations are below.

During the lunch break, the expanded poster session represented 70 local research projects. This important aspect of the day invites collaboration and strengthens the relationships in the local pediatric cancer research community. For the first time this year, posters submitted by Ph.D. program candidates or recent post-doctoral fellows were reviewed by local senior researchers from other institutions in order to recognize particularly promising work.

Hearing from those directly affected by pediatric cancer is an essential part of the symposium. Participants listened intently as Kate Rimel talked about how she is fighting leukemia while keeping up with and exceling at her schoolwork. Nicholas Urzynicok and his family also shared about the many years of fighting bone cancer and his determination to stay active.

CCF extends appreciation to the CCF Scientific Advisory Board members Brigitte Widemann, M.D. of NCI, Aykut Uren, M.D. of Georgetown, Young Kwok, M.D. of University of Maryland, as well Scientific Advisory Board Chair, Jeff Toretsky, M.D who joined us for this important day. We also extend thanks to CCF Board member Steve Coomes and Board Chair Jerry Chadwick. Thanks to the generous support of The Kahlert Foundation, CCF was able to extend free registration to all participants.

The 9th Annual CCF Research Symposium is tentatively scheduled for June 4, 2025.

Below are recordings of each of the speaker presentations. They can also be viewed as a Playlist on the CCF YouTube Channel.

Session I : Challenges and Advances in Cellular Therapy in Leukemia
Moderator: Jeff Toretsky, M.D. Georgetown University
  • Susmita Sarangi, M.D., Georgetown University, “Exploration of the Genetic Underpinnings of Leukemia”
  • Kate Rimel, Leukemia Fighter
  • James Cronk, M.D., National Cancer Institute at NIH (NCI), “B7-H3 Nanobody CAR-T and Soluble TREM2 Genetically Engineered Myeloid Cell Therapy in Murine Syngeneic Glioblastoma”
  • Yiouli Ktena, M.D., Johns Hopkins University (2023 CCF Giant Food NextGen Awardee), “Donor T cell DNA Methylation in Graft-vs-Host Disease and the Graft-vs-Tumor Effect after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation”  
  • Stephanie Gomez, Ph.D., Children’s National, “Product Attributes of Tumor Associated Antigen (TAA) T Cells May Inform Clinical Responses in Pediatric Patients with CNS Tumors”
Keynote Address – Julia Glade Bender, M.D., Memorial Sloan Kettering, “Pediatric Drug Development: Getting into Gear”
Session II: Challenges and Advances in the Treatment of Sarcoma
Moderator: Brigitte Widemann, M.D., National Cancer Institute
  • Brian Ladle, M.D., Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, “Challenges in the development of novel therapeutics for sarcoma”
  • Nicholas Urzynicok, Osteosarcoma Fighter
  • George Annor, Ph.D., NCI, “DLK1 is a therapeutic target in MPNST, and its expression can be modulated by epigenetic modifications”
  • Erin Resch, M.D., Johns Hopkins University, “Antecedent STING agonist therapy improves tumor response to chemotherapy in murine models of osteosarcoma”
  • Taryn Shaw, Georgetown University, “Small Molecule Inhibitors of the PAX3::FOXO1 Fusion Protein in Rhabdomyosarcoma”
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