See also our related blogs for the Keller Laboratory and the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Initiative.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stories from the Vineyard - Portland 2011

VineyardStories from the Vineyard is an annual fundraising event held in Portland to support patients and families living in the Pacific Northwest who are diagnosed with sarcoma.  This event is held by the Northwest Sarcoma Foundation and sponsored by NW Natural.  

Saturday, September 17
6 - 10 pm
Northwest Sarcoma FoundationNW Natural Headquarters
Downtown Portland

For more details, click here.  

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dr. Keller leads team that focuses on the incurable 20 percent in pediatric cancer

[ re-posted from the story in OHSU School of Medicine News by Jennifer Smith ]

08/29/11 Portland, Ore.

Keller_PCB_teamCharles Keller, MD, FAAP, knows what he wants. Or rather, he knows what the children and families of those with rare, incurable pediatric cancers want – effective, personalized treatment. The cure rate for childhood cancers as a group is approaching 80 percent. The Pediatric Cancer Biology (PCB) Program in the PapĂ© Family Pediatric Research Institute at OHSU addresses the causes of mortality in the remaining 20 percent of children. Their work is getting noticed – just a year after joining OHSU, research by Dr. Keller and the PCB team have published 16 papers in high-impact scientific journals.

“We’re looking for the quantum leap for the diseases that can’t be cured,” said Dr. Keller, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics and Sada and Rebecca Tarshis Professor in Pediatric Hematology Oncology.

Hepatoblastoma is one of four diseases of priority for the PCB Program, which Dr. Keller leads; the others include sarcomas, brain stem gliomas and neuroblastoma.

“With the leading researchers we already have and the right recruiting focus, we can create the first-ever U.S. lab to study liver stem cell biology in a focused, results-driven way,” said Dr. Keller.

A number of factors led to Dr. Keller’s vision for a program with a focus on Hepatoblastoma when he joined OHSU in August 2010. He recognized the rich environment for liver stem cell research at OHSU in the Oregon Stem Cell Center, led by Center Director Markus Grompe, MD, Professor, Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Keller also recognized the paucity of U.S. labs dedicated to such focused research. Perhaps the best known work on Hepatoblastoma, he said, is found in the lab of Dr. Marie Annick Buendia at the Pasteur Institute in Paris; other notable research is being done in Germany, Thailand, Japan and Australia.

OHSU’s growing focus on molecular-targeted therapy, in particular at the OHSU Knight Cancer Instiute, also attracted Dr. Keller. Conventional treatments – chemotherapy, surgery and radiation – are not generally effective for the most devastating childhood cancers.

The research necessary for personalized therapy requires coordinated efforts on several fronts. The Pediatric Preclinical Testing Initiative (PPTI), a part of the PCB Program, investigates new drugs for treating childhood cancers. The PCB Program launched the Knight-affiliated Childhood Cancer Registry for Familial and Sporadic Tumors (CCuRe-FAST), a tumor bank and registry, in May which will inform the creation of pediatric personalized cancer therapy. CCuRe-FAST is open to all pediatric cancer patients at Doernbecher and OHSU, and has successfully established 34 primary cell cultures as of mid-August.

Dr. Keller is wasting no time in assembling a team of researchers whose expertise can contribute to a productive understanding of rare childhood cancers in order to create a plan to tackle the diseases. His team comes from all types of backgrounds – he enlists biochemists, biomedical engineers, molecular biologists and electrical engineers – and focuses as much on creativity as on science. For example, they are the first National Cancer Institute affiliate to use genetically-engineered mouse models to study tumor growth and to explore treatment options.

And he’s not stopping yet. “It’s my goal to recruit two additional high caliber investigators in the next five years,” said Dr. Keller. “Two additional labs – one focusing on glioma and one on neuroblastoma biology – would move us significantly closer to finding innovative treatments for pediatric cancers.”

Abraham_Keller_HuangIn February, Cancer Cell published a landmark study, in which Dr. Keller and the PCB team discovered the cell of origin for childhood muscle cancer. In March, PCB researchers, led by Jinu Abraham, PhD, identified a promising new approach to overcoming drug resistance in children with an extremely aggressive childhood muscle cancer known as alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. This study was first published online and graced the April cover of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics. And as an unexpected result, their laboratory published in June in the Journal of Biological Chemistry that an antibiotic that inactivates a gene responsible for preventing eye cancer in children can actually improve muscle stem cell generation, with implications for muscular dystrophy, but not apparently putting those patients at risk for rhabdomyosarcoma.

Part of the PCB team’s research takes multi-disciplinary science to a new level – a new species, to be exact. The characteristics of osteosarcoma in canines are remarkably similar to the disease’s pattern in humans, although it is naturally occurring and 10 times more frequent in the four-legged species. Teaming up with Oregon State University veterinarian Bernard Seguin, Dr. Keller and colleagues study drug response in dogs and hope to find treatments that translate to human patients.

As a member of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, Dr. Keller works closely with other Knight researchers and supports Knight programs, such as the Knight Seminar Series, which brings experts from across the country to OHSU, with a focus on translational research.

Dr. Keller’s lab, the PCB Program and the PPTI have active blogs, which you can find on the Charles Keller Lab website. The passion and vision Dr. Keller has for his work is evident in person and online. One of his first posts after joining OHSU ended with these words: “Where there is a will, there is a way. Change can be tangible. And we are accountable.”

Pictured above: (top) Dr. Keller and the PCB team, (bottom) Dr. Abraham, Dr. Keller and Elaine Huang, MS, in the lab

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dept of Radiation Medicine - An Essential Partner in Research

The OHSU Department of Radiation Medicine is led by Chairman Dr. Charles Thomas and encumbers a strong heritage in basic and clinical cancer research.  For a list of recent visiting speakers click here or here.  

Friday, August 26, 2011

Check Out How the National Cancer Institute Has Gone All AYA Style

“Young people with cancer can no find relevant information from the NCI all in once place – in the Adolescent and Young Adult portal. This portal was designed to reach newly diagnosed AYA patients with evidenced-based information that will help them learn about treatment options, explore clinical trial options, get emotional support, and learn about organizations that serve young people with cancer. It now has videos and links to a special AYA issue of the NCI Cancer Bulletin. The portal was inspired by the many organizations, and incredible young people, who make up the LAF Young Adult Alliance; many are listed in the Organizations and Resources section of the portal.” – Carol Sienche, Senior Program Manager, National Cancer Institute
This one-stop shop of videos, articles and links galore is available now. Search around, and you’ll be sure to find our AYA Medical Director, Brandon Hayes-Lattin, MD in a few of those videos and articles.
Adolescents and young adults with cancer have different needs from other patients. The Knight Cancer Institute is proud to offer Oregon’s only program designed exclusively for people ages 15-39. Our internationally-recognized, award-winning Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program is dedicated to ensuring all AYAs with cancer have access to services tailored to their specific needs.
re-posted from ayavoice blog

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pediatric Cancer NanoCourse Participants

Congratulations to NanoCourse graduates Ailin Jiang, Raha Kannan, Marissa Peterson, Victoria Reinke and Teagen Settlemeyer. We are grateful to them for their terrific questions and hard work this month!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

2011 Inaugural Brody Borlaug Memorial Golf Tournament

On September 23rd the Brody Borlaug Foundation will present the 2011 Inaugural Brody Borlaug Memorial Golf Tournament and Crab & Crawdad Feed to help raise awareness of rare and complex immune disorders.  This event is in memory of their three year-old son, Brody.  Funds raised with benefit an Immunology Center of Excellence at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. To rsvp, please contact Jeff Borlaug at tracyborlaug (at)  

Monday, August 8, 2011

CureSearch Walk - Portland

On Saturday August 6th families, patients and childhood cancer survivors gathered for the CureSearch for Children's Cancer walk in Sellwood Riverfront Park.  PCB program members Emma, Janelle and Jen were early rising volunteers.  The event was inspiring to see the young childhood cancer patients telling their stories, survivors showing that childhood cancer is an often survivable disease - but also to see the way in which children who have not been so fortunate are remembered and honored (in this case, with a butterfly release).  Speaking were both OHSU Doernbecher Pediatric Hematology/Oncology division chief, Dr. Linda Stork, and OHSU Knight Cancer Institute Director, Dr. Brian Druker.  The event raised more than $36,000 for childhood cancer clinical research nationally and in Portland.  
[ right:  Dr. Stacy Nicholson (neuro-oncologist and OHSU Chair of Pediatrics); Linda Stork; DCHF mascot "Dolly" ]