Funding Lifesaving Research with Dr. Ting Tao

We’d like you to meet Dr. Ting Tao, Emerging Investigator Grant recipient from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. This type of grant is designed for emerging pediatric cancer researchers to pursue exciting research ideas and encourages and cultivates the best and brightest researchers of the future. Dr. Tao’s research studies will investigate a novel pathway of how neuroblastoma develops, revealing new targets for improved therapy of high-risk neuroblastoma.

Since PCRF’s inception, through our funding of emerging research, we have made a positive impact in improving childhood cancer survival rates from 10% to over 80%.

With this grant from the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, Dr. Tao is working to understand the mechanisms of how cancerous neuroblastoma cells can turn into noncancerous ganglioneuroma cells using the Zebrafish model.

He tells us more about his role in helping to eliminate childhood cancer through leading edge research.

What interests you in finding a cure and/or better treatments for neuroblastoma?

Cancer is the number one cause of death by disease among children.  When a child is diagnosed with cancer, it affects all family members and nearly every aspect of the family’s life.  Neuroblastoma is a solid tumor of the peripheral sympathetic nervous system in children. This type of cancer is very difficult to treat and accounts for 15% of childhood cancer deaths.  The survival rate for children with high-risk neuroblastoma is still low despite improved treatments. Survivors often suffer side effects of the treatment.  This motivates me to find and develop safer, more effective treatments for neuroblastoma.Dr. Ting Tao

Share your thoughts on why you think it’s important to fund pediatric cancer research.

The incidence of childhood cancer is increasing.  However, pediatric cancer research receives less than 5% of the federal funding from the National Cancer Institute.  There are fewer drugs available for pediatric cancers than for adult cancers because they are less profitable.  Most childhood cancer survivors will have one or more significant health-related issues, commonly due to the side effects of treatment than the cancer itself.  We need funding from donors and foundations like PCRF to conduct research and turn the innovative results into new treatment options through clinical trials to improve treatment and outcomes.

What is your point of view on the climate of pediatric cancer research?

Major treatment advances in pediatric cancer have been made in past several decades. The 5-year survival rate has increased greatly since the mid-1970s.  With current available technologies and the expansion of personalized medicine using immunotherapy, targeted therapies and epigenetic therapies, now is the golden era of pediatric cancer research.  Although some cancer types have seen little progress in survival rates, I am optimistic that we will continue improving survival rates and reducing side effects with better therapies.  Pediatric cancer research should continue to be a “moonshot” priority.

How has the support from PCRF allowed your research to be successful?

With the support from PCRF, I am able to explore this high-risk but potentially high-reward idea.  This significant award is very important for me to generate strong evidence to support my hypothesis and compete for additional federal funding in the future.  It will also help me to advance my career towards independence and translate the results to treatments in the clinics.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I enjoy hiking, fishing, gardening, and playing with my kid!

Learn more about Dr. Ting Tao, our impact and the future of curing childhood cancers.