UC Davis clinical research scientist wins second Hartwell Foundation award for pediatric cancer research

August 7, 2015

UC Davis pediatric oncologist and researcher Noriko Satake has been awarded a 2015 Hartwell Biomedical Research Collaboration Award from The Hartwell Foundation, a philanthropy that funds innovative and leading-edge biomedical research with the potential to benefit children of the United States. This is the first time a Hartwell investigator from UC Davis has received the Foundation’s inter-institutional Collaboration Award.

Noriko Satake
Noriko Satake

Satake, an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics, will share the three-year, $699,358 award with Neal M. Alto, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Both researchers were recipients of a 2011 Hartwell Individual Biomedical Research Award. Together, the two scientists propose a targeted approach to kill pediatric cancers that will minimize the toxic side effects associated with typical chemotherapy regimens by virtue of the specificity of their innovative drug-delivery platform.

Their collaboration will leverage innovative cell-targeting antibody technology from the Satake laboratory and a new class of biopharmaceutical drugs developed in the Alto laboratory. Satake has developed an effective antibody-conjugate drug delivery system against B-cell leukemia and lymphoma that will deliver drugs directly to cancer cells, inhibiting the cancer’s growth and reducing the negative off-target effects often associated with other therapeutic approaches. Alto has developed a library of more than 200 bacterial toxins, which by their selection can be highly specific in killing certain cancer cells, and is currently testing several of them in lung cancer research using mouse models.

“I am making novel compounds for the two most common cancers in kids – B-cell leukemia/ lymphoma and neuroblastoma,” Satake said. “If this is successful, it would specifically target the cancers, delivering novel toxins directly to the tumors. A radioactive tracer will allow us to identify the location of the targeted tumor cells, observe how the drug is delivered, how long the drug stays in the body and if the tumor shrinks, among other indicators. The team is calling this an ‘all-in-one treatment’ and we think this supports development of a new approach to targeted therapy that would minimize toxic side effects.”

Each year more than 12,000 children in the U.S. are diagnosed with cancer. About a third of all affected patients fall into a high-risk category, where treatments of choice have limited efficacy and survival rates are often less than 30 percent. In most cancers, the standard of care involves systemic delivery of chemotherapy drugs, many of which bring side effects including nausea, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, anemia and severe pain. In children, chemotherapy may cause delays in maturation, slow physical growth and damage to vital, developing organs. Side effects occur because chemotherapy indiscriminately affects common biological pathways found in both cancer and normal cells.

“This is tremendously exciting cutting-edge research that has the potential to change lives on a global scale,” said UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi. “We are exceedingly proud of Dr. Satake’s work and grateful to the Hartwell Foundation for supporting this research.”

Fred Dombrose, president of The Hartwell Foundation, said: “The collaboration between Alto and Satake will represent a major step toward moving their therapeutic discoveries to clinical trials. Discovery of the cellular mechanism of action of the antibody-toxin conjugates in killing cancer has the potential to identify more targets and more advanced therapies, including translation to the clinic for other diseases, as well.”

The Hartwell Foundation fosters collaborations between investigators of complementary scientific strengths in its mission to fund innovative, early-stage applied biomedical research with the potential to benefit children. For more information visit www.thehartwellfoundation.org.

For more information about the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, visit http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/cancer/

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