About Crosby's Fund
What is Neuroblastoma?
Neuroblastoma is a solid, cancerous tumor that begins in nerve tissue in the neck, chest, abdomen, or pelvis, but often (1/3 of the time) originates in the abdomen in the tissues of the adrenal gland. It is typically a tumor of early childhood, and accounts for 50% of the cancers diagnosed in infants.
Cancer develops as the result of abnormal cell growth within the body. In the case of neuroblastoma, the cells of this cancer usually resemble very primitive developing nerve cells found in an embryo or fetus. (The term neuro indicates "nerves," and blastoma refers to a cancer that affects immature or developing cells.) The immature cells go on to divide and grow abnormally and create a tumor. Some of these tumors do turn out to be non-cancerous (benign), and are referred to as [ganglioneuroma].
Crosby's Fund Impact
Supporters of Crosby’s Fund have allowed researchers in the Department of Pediatrics to make promising discoveries aimed at preventing the development of neuroblastoma, as well as provide continuous support to Dr. Nina Schor’s laboratory with multiple exciting additions to its research team.
In 2012, Crosby’s Fund made a generous commitment, matched by the Department of Pediatrics at Golisano Children's Hospital, to recruit Dr. Xingguo Li, a full-time research assistant professor and molecular biologist, to study neuroblastoma in Dr. Schor’s laboratory. In just two years, Dr. Li’s work has garnered exciting results. The Schor Lab has been focusing on what is called the SIX family of proteins, which has led to a deeper understanding of how neuroblastoma resists chemotherapy and has revealed unique links between mutations that are found in some families of neuroblastoma, proteins responsible for regulating tumor growth, and enzymes that allow a cancer cell to repair the damage caused by chemotherapy. Research like this could lead to multiple opportunities for further study, including possible ways to stop cell division using an inhibitor of the proteins activated by the SIX proteins.
In recent months, Drs. Li and Schor have been collaborating with Dr. Dirk Bohmann at the University of Rochester and Dr. Haitao Li at Tsinghua University in China, taking a deeper look at a specific protein and how it interact with the SIX proteins, specifically in the development of the nervous system of fruit flies. Using a fruit fly model gives the researchers an inexpensive and fast way to study how different drugs might change the function of these proteins that are thought to play a role in the development of neuroblastoma. Knowing how the proteins change the function of the SIX proteins can help in the design of drugs that interfere with that process and, therefore, hinder the role of SIX proteins in the development of neuroblastoma.
Recently, Crosby’s Fund renewed critical support for Dr. Li, again matched by the Department of Pediatrics. In addition, the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry will support a research fellow to join Li in hopes of speeding the path from idea to new strategy for the treatment of the disease. A grant proposal will be submitted in the near future to the National Institutes of Health to fund this work in coming years. Having the preliminary data to present at national meetings and in scientific papers is critical for national funding and is possible because of Crosby’s Fund. In addition to a new research fellow, University of Rochester undergraduate Zoe Kory has joined the Schor Lab for the summer with funding from the Strong Children’s Research Center of Golisano Children’s Hospital.
Crosby’s Fund is also bringing special attention to neuroblastoma by supporting a special interest group meeting on neuroblastoma at the Child Neurology Society 2014 Annual Meeting and a Presidential Symposium on Neuroblastoma at the 2015 Annual Meeting. The Child Neurology Society is the preeminent non-profit professional association of pediatric neurologists in the United States, Canada, and worldwide devoted to fostering the discipline of child neurology and promoting the optimal care and welfare of children with neurological and neuro developmental disorders. There are, at present, over 80 university-based training programs in child neurology in the United States and Canada, and over 1,300 child neurologists in the Child Neurology Society, which is currently led by Dr. Schor. By bringing neuroblastoma to the forefront of this international meeting of experts, Crosby’s Fund seeks to spark new ideas, collaboration, and research in neuroblastoma.
The work of Crosby’s Fund will continue to pave the way for a better future for patients with neuroblastoma, offering an overall better understanding of treatments and hope for a cure.