Swim Across America, a 501(c)3 that hosts charity swims with a purpose of granting the proceeds to fund cancer research, is pleased to announce it is awarding a $50,000 grant to Dr. Robyn Gartrell of Columbia University Medical Center and a $50,000 grant to Dr. Julie Saba of UC Children’s Hospital Oakland. The awarding of these two grants is a result of additional fundraising that was received in 2017 and is in addition to the $4,891,422 that SAA awarded for 2018 to its beneficiaries.
Since it’s founding in 1987, SAA charity swims have funded more than $75 million to cancer research. SAA grant researchers have developed multiple FDA approved immunotherapies, gene therapy and personalized therapy treatments. Over 1.6 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer every year. Because of SAA grants, oncologists have been able to conduct research that otherwise wouldn’t have been funded and more families have hope in the fight against cancer.
Dr. Gartrell will use her grant to study childhood brain tumors, including high-grade glioma (HGG), the most aggressive type of brain cancer in children. New treatment methods using the immune system, called immunotherapies, offer promise for helping to treat HGG in children. Dr. Gartrell’s team will study specific immune cells in and around HGG to determine the best approach in applying immunotherapy to this devastating disease.
Dr. Saba will use her grant to study a cancer-related gene (AF1q) first identified in an infant with leukemia. Some types of cancers have high AF1q levels, and patient outcomes are worse in AF1q-positive tumors and leukemia. Scientists have concluded that AF1q is a “genetic driver” of cancer. The proposed project and SAA grant funding will compare the protein profiles on the surface of cancer cells either containing or lacking AF1q. By doing so, Dr. Saba expects to identify proteins that act as surrogate markers of AF1q expression that could be targeted by immune therapy. It is hoped that this study will move closer to developing a cure for cancers in which AF1q is a genetic driver.