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In the News: Emily Whitehead Anniversary, Buchanan Lectureship, Hyundai Young Investigators, Yi Xing, New York Auto Show

Published on April 20, 2018 in Cornerstone Blog · Last Updated 5 months 2 weeks ago


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Cars, computational biology, and cancer advances are all featured in this week’s roundup of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia research news, as our investigators received recognition at places as far as the New York International Auto Show, and as close as our hospital’s own Seacrest Studios. Read on to learn more about new awards from Hyundai’s nonprofit organization, Hope on Wheels, the Emily Whitehead Foundation’s generous gift to our Cancer Immunotherapy Frontier Program, and more!

Celebrating Six Years of CAR T-cell Success

This past Tuesday, six years to the day that Emily Whitehead became the first pediatric patient to receive the innovative CAR T-cell therapy, the Whiteheads returned to CHOP to present Stephan Grupp, MD, director of our Cancer Immunotherapy Frontier Program, with a $250,000 research grant on behalf of the Emily Whitehead Foundation. The grant will benefit ongoing CAR T-cell therapy research at CHOP.

“It is an honor to be able to give back to the team that not only saved Emily's life, but also led the development of this treatment that has helped many more children survive cancer,” wrote the Foundation on their Facebook page.

There was much to celebrate at the check presentation held at CHOP’s Seacrest Studios: April 17 marks the day that researchers at CHOP and the University of Pennsylvania infused Emily’s own T-cells, which had been reprogrammed to attack the aggressive leukemia cells in her system, back into her body. Three weeks later, Emily was in remission, and six years later, she remains cancer-free. In August, the Food and Drug Administration approved the personalized cellular therapy that was developed in partnership with Penn Medicine and Novartis for the treatment of patients with B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that is refractory or in relapse.

“The grant from the Emily Whitehead Foundation moves us toward helping more children like Emily, who have exhausted all other clinical options,” stated Dr. Grupp in a press release.

Read more in the press release.

ASPHO Recognizes Stephen P. Hunger, MD

In more good news from the Cancer Center at CHOP, the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASPHO) is honoring Stephen P. Hunger, MD, chief of the Division of Oncology and director of the Center for Childhood Cancer Research, with the George R. Buchanan Lectureship Award for his pioneering translational discoveries in pediatric leukemia. Dr. Hunger will receive the award at the 2018 ASPHO Convention in May. The Buchanan Lectureship, awarded every year, honors George R. Buchanan, past president of the ASPHO and a renowned pediatric hematology physician-researcher. Recipients of the Lectureship are nationally or internationally distinguished experts in pediatric hematology/oncology, with “significant research, education, and clinical expertise” as well as recognition as educators, mentors, and speakers, according to the ASPHO.

Dr. Hunger will present his lecture, “Improving Survival for Children and Young Adults with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia,” at the convention, held in Pittsburgh May 2.

Learn more at ASPHO.

Hyundai Awards 2018 Young Investigator Grants

Congratulations go out to this year’s recipients of the 2018 Hyundai Young Investigator Award, which included two investigators at the Cancer Center at CHOP: Timothy Olson, MD, PhD, and Jessica Foster, MD. Dr. Olson will receive $300,000 in funding for his project titled, “Improving Stem Cell Niche Function during Cellular Therapy for Leukemia Predisposition Syndromes.” Dr. Foster will receive $200,000 for her project, titled, “Development of GPC2-directed RNA Chimeric Antigen Receptor Therapy for Neuroblastoma.”

(HHOW) is a nonprofit organization that has awarded more than $130 million toward childhood cancer research. At this year’s New York International Auto Show, HHOW announced that 53 institutions would receive a combined $15 million in pediatric cancer research grants for 2018. The Young Investigator award provides funding for researchers whose projects are likely to have a “significant impact on improving the understanding of the biology of childhood cancer,” according to their website.

CHOP has a noted history of harboring Hyundai grant recipients. Last year, pediatric oncologist Kristopher Bosse, MD, received the Young Investigator award for his work investigating the development of new targeted immunotherapeutics in high-risk neuroblastoma, while Kathrin Bernt, MD, received a Hyundai Scholar Hope Grant for her research focusing on a common subtype of acute myeloid leukemia (AML) called inv(16).

Learn more about the 2018 grants at the Hyundai Hope On Wheels website.

Helen Loeb, PhD, Discusses Self-Driving Tech at New York Auto Show

This year’s New York International Auto Show also played host to CHOP scientists beyond the Cancer Center. At the event held at the Jacobs K. Javits Convention Center in late March, Helen Loeb, PhD, senior scientist and biomedical engineer at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP), presented novel research and insights into self-driving vehicle technology as part of the 2018 World Traffic Safety Symposium, which she attended as a guest speaker and panelist. The Symposium brought together researchers, legislators, and trade press. Following the event, Dr. Loeb penned a blog post for CIRP’s Research in Action blog. In the article, Dr. Loeb discussed her presentation, “Consumer Sentiment on Automated Vehicles,” and touched on everything from the recent tragedies that resulted from self-driving vehicles to ongoing CIRP research into how we can make the novel technology as safe as possible.

Read Dr. Loeb’s full blog post online, and learn more about Dr. Loeb’s research into self-driving technology on Cornerstone.

Yi Xing to Direct New Computational Biology Center at CHOP

This week, we gave a warm welcome to Yi Xing, MD, an internationally recognized expert in computational biology and genomics, who is heading to CHOP to serve as founder and director of the new Center for Computational and Genomic Medicine. The Center will be committed to wielding the power of big data and genomics technologies to discover new treatment approaches for childhood conditions. Computational biology is a broad discipline that occupies the unique intersection of data and medicine. Scientists apply tools and techniques from mathematics, statistics, and computer science to problems in a range of diverse biological fields, including genomics.

Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer Bryan Wolf, MD, PhD, had high praise for Dr. Xing in a press release: “He is one of the premier investigators in this space, playing a pivotal role in developing new genomic technologies and computational methods, and leading collaborative studies aimed at understanding how our genome and its gene products contribute to development and disease.”

Dr. Xing will join CHOP Research Institute Sept. 1.

Learn more in the press release.


Recently on Cornerstone, we introduced Amy Goldstein, MD, clinical director of our Mitochondrial Medicine Frontier Program as part of our Meet Our Investigators” series, shared highlights from February’s Entrepreneurial Science Scholars Program event, and covered new Nature Medicine research into a novel pathway in the mouse brain that, when stimulated, leads to antidepressive-like behaviors.

Catch up on our headlines from our April 6 edition of In the News:

  • Pediatrics Department Ranks First in the Nation
  • David Barrett Receives SU2C Innovation in Collaboration Award
  • Research Into CAR T-Cell Dysfunction to be Presented at AACR
  • CHOP Researchers Study Teen Driving and ADHD Symptoms
  • CHOP and Penn Enlist Novel Goggles to Study Bike Safety
  • Youth Concussions Result From a Variety of Activities, Beyond Contact Sports

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