Realizing Futures

Behind the Science: Q & A with Dr. Monika Davare

Funding lifesaving research with Dr. Monika Davare

Did you know the research we fund has the potential to cure every kid diagnosed with cancer? Our researchers are super heroes that are working hard to make a difference in the lives of children fighting cancer. At PCRF, we take a unique interest in our Emerging Investigator grant category. These grants allow for exciting research ideas to develop, thus cultivating the best and brightest research of the future.Meet Dr. Monika Davare, Emerging Grant recipient from Oregon Health & Science University. Dr. Davare’s research program. Her emerging research project focuses on improving long-term outcomes and quality of life for patients with high-risk medulloblastoma. She tells us about her role in helping to ensure all children have a chance at a long, healthy future.

Why are you interested in finding a cure and/or better treatments for medulloblastoma and other brain tumors?
Every child deserves to have a joyous and carefree childhood. If they do get diagnosed with a brain tumor, our treatments should be so good that children not only become cancer-free but also retain their full future potential and quality of life. Currently, our treatments are so toxic that many children who are cured of their cancer are left with lifelong health consequences. As a mother, I cannot even imagine the magnitude of anxiety and anguish that the parents of a child given a cancer diagnosis must experience. We can definitely do better than this.

Share your thoughts on why you think it’s important to fund pediatric cancer research.
While pediatric cancer is devastating from a personal point of view, statistically speaking, it is considered rare and only about 7% of the National Cancer Institute budget is spent on childhood cancer research. For similar reasons, pharmaceutical industry is also disinclined to invest in this area. However, children are our future, and a child’s illness has long-lasting negative consequences, not just on the patient, but on the whole family and consequently society as a whole. This is a critical area of unmet medical innovation and funding research is essential.

What advice would you give to a child diagnosed with cancer?
You are strong, and we are so very proud of your courage! We are working hard to find medicines to help you feel great, like your vibrant self again.

How has the support from PCRF allowed your research to be successful?
We are pursuing a project that aimed at finding new ways to treat medulloblastoma. Positive data from our project will result in a much higher likelihood of bringing new oral therapies to kids. This is because when we looked in depth in a very detailed manner, we found several overlooked drug targets in medulloblastoma tumors. Once discovered, we need to do wet lab work to prove or disprove that these targets are controlling the cancer growth and are druggable.

“Furthermore, funding from PCRF has allowed us to launch this project and we are already generating very promising data. Now we have the opportunity to potentially get some federal funding by using the positive preliminary data generated using funds from PCRF. Basically, PCRF provided necessary seed funding to test this idea, without which we would not have been able to launch it.” – Dr. Monika Davare

Can you tell us something about you not many people know?
As a postdoctoral fellow, I worked part-time after becoming a mother in order to spend quality time with my daughter. With creativity, hard-work, many unpaid nights and weekends in the lab, and determination, I was able to succeed despite going on the road less taken. I returned to work full-time when she was eight years old. I bring this same spirit of independence, creative thinking, relentless drive and perseverance to my pediatric cancer research projects.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I am an avid reader and also very much enjoy cooking and hiking here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Currently, I reading Alan Lightman, and highly recommend his books Einstein’s Dreams, The Accidental Universe and Mr. G.

Learn more about our impact and the future of curing childhood cancers.

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When you are young and healthy, it never occurs to you that in a single second your whole life could change. – Annette Funicello