Grant Highlights for August 2012
Weill Cornell Medical College Student Receives Grant for Childhood Cancer Research
Rising Weill Cornell Medical College second-year AnneMarie Laurri has been awarded a $6,000 grant from Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation to research the same kind of brain tumor her brother battled and won.
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation has been providing Pediatric Oncology Student Training Grants for the past two years to enable medical and graduate students to work with faculty mentors in the lab over the summer to further their interest in pediatric oncology. Laurri is one of 15 students from 14 institutions nationwide to receive this award, and only one of two in metropolitan New York.
Laurri is spending this summer working in the Laboratory of Molecular and Developmental Neuro-Oncology with Dr. Praveen Raju, the Caryl and Israel A. Englander Clinical Scholar, assistant professor of pediatrics and assistant professor of pediatrics in neurology. Laurri is studying medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor in children.
"The award was based on the project, my desire to be a pediatric oncologist, and most importantly, the ingenuity and enthusiasm of my mentor, Dr. Praveen Raju," Laurri said. "He is truly an incredible role model, both as a practitioner and a researcher, constantly giving every bit of it his all. I was thrilled to get accepted to work in his lab."
It's a subject that's particularly meaningful to her. Her brother Frank was a medulloblastoma patient, diagnosed when he was 8-years-old and considered a survivor six years later. He had to relearn how to speak, walk and even write his name, Laurri said. This form of cancer often leaves lasting mental and motor skill deficits. But Frank beat those odds and is now finishing up his LPN degree.
"He is definitely an inspiration," she said, "and the reason I knew I wanted to specialize in pediatric oncology."
Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to finding cures for all kids with cancer. The Foundation awarded 48 grants — more than $4 million — in the first cycle of 2012 to doctors, researchers, medical and graduate students representing 34 institutions and universities in 19 states to fund research on numerous forms of childhood cancer.
"Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation is an incredible foundation that offers different ways to help out in the fight against childhood cancers, one way being scholarships," Laurri said. ‘The Pediatric Oncology Student Training program is really wonderful, and I'm honored to be a part of it."
Investigators in Department of Pharmacology Receive Grants from National Institutes of Health
Dr. Lorraine Gudas, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and the Revlon Pharmaceutical Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, received a two-year, $443,626 research grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism to study the alcohol-induced epigenetic changes in stem cells.
Alcohol abuse is a global problem that damages multiple organs and tissues and causes disease. Additionally, alcohol changes the expression of genes in cells that may compromise regeneration of tissues, predispose cells to abnormal growth or even alter the functions of stem cells. The grant will allow Dr. Gudas and her lab to perform experiments in stem cells that will delineate the effects of alcohol and a metabolite of alcohol, acetaldehyde, on histones, which are proteins that surround DNA in cells. The new information researchers will gain from the research may be critical in understanding alcohol-associated tissue injury, since stem cells are continually differentiating throughout life, and the studies of Dr. Gudas and her colleagues may lead to new types of epigenetic drug treatments for alcohol-associated tissue injury.
In addition, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences renewed a training grant from principal investigators Dr. Steven Gross, professor of pharmacology, and Dr. Roberto Levi, professor of pharmacology, to fund the pre-doctoral Pharmacology Training Program at the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences. The three-year, $803,781 grant will provide fellowship support for doctoral students who wish to train in the discipline of pharmacology. The inter-departmental and inter-institutional program, which comprises faculty from Weill Cornell and the Sloan-Kettering Institute, seeks to educate the next generation of pharmacologists.
The Burke Medical Research Institute — the research entity of the Burke Rehabilitation Center — has been awarded a two-year, $150,000 scientific research grant to study Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. The grant was awarded by the U.S - Israel Binational Science Foundation, whose goal is to support collaborative research projects between American and Israeli researchers. The grant, awarded in conjunction with researchers from Tel Aviv University, will fund the creation of a methodology to study how neurons and muscle cells malfunction in ALS patients, causing axon degeneration and ultimately neuron cell deaths.
Dr. Gary Gibson, professor of neuroscience at Weill Cornell and director of the Laboratory for Mitochondrial Biology and Metabolic Dysfunction in Neurodegeneration at the Burke Medical Research Institute, has been awarded a two-year, $500,000 grant by CHDI Foundation to study Huntington's disease. CHDI is a private, not-for-profit research organization that works with a global network of scientists to discover therapies that slow the progression of Huntington's. After observing the work he has been doing with Alzheimer's disease, CHDI tapped Dr. Gibson to conduct a study specific to this devastating condition.