Abiola Ayanlaja Ph.D. of Johns Hopkins shares his data with a fellow researcher.

Childhood cancer researchers joined survivors, advocates, cancer care teams and community leaders to share latest pediatric cancer research breakthroughs and to discuss ways to work together to advance local research during the 7th Annual CCF Research Symposium. Launched in 2016, and the brainchild of CCF Scientific Advisory Board Chair Jeffrey Toretsky, M.D., of Georgetown 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 hosts primarily local participants, a prominent poster session, features talks by younger investigators, and involves the non-scientific community. This one-day event caters to the local research community, allowing for 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.

Finally, it is through the generous support of The Kahlert Foundation which allows CCF to extend free registration to all participants. Joining us from the Foundation this year was Sandy Sidlovsky, Community Relations Director, who joined the poster and keynote presentations.

Attendees enjoyed Keynote speaker, Patrick Grohar, M.D. Ph.D., from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who shared his lab’s history advancing treatment for Ewing sarcoma. Other presenters, representing the National Cancer Institute, Children’s National, Johns Hopkins, and Georgetown Hospital, shared in-depth findings from their research tackling leukemia, neurofibromatosis, Ewing sarcoma and other cancers. Each 2022 CCF Research Grant recipient gave a talk on their funded research progress or presented a poster.

During the lunch break, the expanded poster session represented 50 local research projects. Poster presenters had the opportunity to speak to both non-scientists, a skill crucial for securing research funding, and fellow researchers, forging collaboration and strengthening the relationships in the local pediatric cancer research community.

The most inspiring part of the day are the presentations of those directly affected by pediatric cancer. Participants listened intently as Ewing sarcoma survivor Danielle Hankey, and her mother, Wendy Hankey, shared their journey since Danielle’s Ewing sarcoma diagnosis in high school. Another fighter, Haley Ashton, shared her journey with the audience. Haley, currently a first-year student at UMBC, diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) in February 2022, is the third member of her family to be diagnosed with this disease.

CCF extends appreciation to Scientific Advisory Board members Brigitte Widemann, M.D. of NCI, Aykut Uren, M.D. of Georgetown, Christine Pratilas, M.D. of Hopkins and Brian Rood, M.D. of Children’s National for their support as well as to CCF Board member, Steve Coomes, for volunteering his entire day to CCF! This was truly a community and collaborative event. The 8th Annual CCF Research Symposium is tentatively scheduled for June 12, 2024.

Photos and videos for each of the presentations are below.

Videos can be viewed on YouTube as a playlist on the CCF channel
Session I: Sarcoma and other Solid Tumors

  • Srivandana Akshintala, MBBS, MPH, Research Physician, Pediatric Oncology Branch, Center for Cancer Research (CCR), National Cancer Institute (NCI), “Sarcomas: Clinical Overview and novel treatment approaches”
  • Danielle Hankey, Ewing Sarcoma survivor and mother Wendy
  • Joanna Kitlinska, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology, Georgetown University School of Medicine, “Neuropeptide Y (NPY) in Ewing Sarcoma Bone Metastasis”
  • Taylor Sundby, M.D. (2020 CCF Giant Food Next Gen Awardee), Assistant Research Physician, Pediatric Oncology Branch, CCR, NCI, “Cell-free DNA fragmentomics distinguish between benign, pre-malignant and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors in neurofibromatosis type 1”
  • Alexandre Maalouf, M.D., Postdoctoral Fellow, Johns Hopkins Hospital, “Clinicopathological and molecular features of rhabdomyosarcoma influence their immune landscape”

Keynote Presentation

  • Patrick Grohar, M.D. Ph.D., Director of Translational Research, Center for Childhood Cancer Research, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, “Integrating the bench with the bedside targeting EWS-FLI1 for Ewing sarcoma”

Session II: Cellular Therapies for Leukemias and Solid Tumors

  • Blachy Dávila Saldaña, M.D., Attending Physician, Division of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, Children’s National Hospital, “Leukemias: Clinical overview and novel treatment approaches”
  • Haley Ashton, B-Cell ALL fighter
  • Tony Choe, Ph.D. candidate, Johns Hopkins Hospital, “Anti-B7H3 CAR NK cells for high-risk pediatric brain tumors”
  • Cynthia Harrison, medical student, Pediatric Oncology Branch, CCR, NCI, “Intrathecal Hydrocortisone for Treatment of Children and Young Adults with CAR T-cell Immune-Effector Cell Associated Neurotoxicity Syndrome”
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