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UC Davis research into ways to better target therapy to childhood cancers has received a major boost, thanks to a $100,000 surprise gift from the Keaton Raphael Memorial.
Noriko Satake, assistant professor and pediatric oncologist, was handed the check without notice recently by Robyn Raphael, CEO of Keaton Raphael Memorial, a Roseville-based philanthropy which has raised millions for cancer research and to support families affected by childhood cancer.
Raphael said her organization chose Satake's research because neuroblastoma is a serious childhood cancer that would benefit greatly from new discoveries.
"Childhood cancer remains the number-one disease killer of our children despite research progress," Raphael said. "Dr. Satake's research was a very exciting opportunity for me personally. My son, Keaton, was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, which is a very aggressive and sneaky cancer. Treatments remain very toxic and often destroy healthy cells along the way. A targeted therapy would allow drugs to be delivered to the neuroblastoma cells specifically, and be much less invasive."
The physician-scientist said she had no idea she was to receive the grant when she was invited to a fundraising luncheon recently.
"I almost cried," she said. "Research funding in these last few years is extremely tight. It is very difficult for young investigators like me to obtain research funding from the National Institutes of Health ( NIH ). The Keaton Raphael Memorial funding will allow me to work on the project immediately so that I can obtain adequate data to compete for a research grant from NIH in a year or so from now."
Satake's work utilizes technology developed by one of her mentors, Kit Lam, professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine. Lam developed novel methods to use nanoparticles to deliver drugs directly to tumors.
"These nanoparticles can deliver high doses of drugs to the cancer cells," she said. "I am creating a model to test such new treatment in neuroblastoma. If everything goes well, in three to five years, we may be able to start a clinical trial with the new nanoparticle drug that we develop here at UC Davis."
About UC Davis
UC Davis Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute- designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its top specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 9,000 adults and children every year, and offer patients access to more than 150 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program includes more than 280 scientists at UC Davis and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The unique partnership, the first between a major cancer center and national laboratory, has resulted in the discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Through the Cancer Care Network, UC Davis is collaborating with a number of hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California regions to offer the latest cancer-care services.
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