CHOP Doc Gets $1 Million to Further Pediatric Cancer Research

The Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania at UPENN.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia | Photo by Jeff Fusco

It’s the end of the workweek and we could all use a good, stress-relieving happy cry, couldn’t we? Well, here we go: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s Dr. Richard Aplenc, who has been working with pediatric blood cancer at CHOP since 2000, was just awarded a $1 million grant by Hyundai Hope on Wheels to further pediatric cancer research and hopefully take a step toward transforming the way acute myeloid leukemia, which currently has a cure rate of between 50 and 60 percent, is treated. As he says, “We are very, very excited. This gives us resources to do something we wouldn’t be able to do before.”

If you are tearing up right now (because money to help sick kids!), feel no shame: I might’ve teared up as I was talking to Dr. Aplenc, which is significantly more embarrassing.

As Dr. Aplenc explains, currently, AML is treated with either chemotherapy or a combo of chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants, and both of those options are incredibly intense, especially for a kid. With this grant, which will be doled out in $250,000 chunks over the next four years, Dr. Aplenc and his team will be able to research and hopefully identify new proteins on the outside of AML cells. This is no easy task. As Dr. Aplenc says, “Right now we know around 100 of the proteins, but we think there are probably a couple thousand, but most of them haven’t been identified.” Learning more about these proteins will lead to a better understanding of whether doctors can treat AML in a different way.

Dr. Aplenc, who was one of four doctors around the country to receive a $1 million grant from HHOW, describes the grant idea as “high-risk, high-reward.” No one’s ever done it before, which makes it risky — but obviously, if they’re successful in taking a step forward in upping the survival rates for AML, that would be incredibly rewarding.

So, who else just had a good, hopeful happy cry? Great. My job here is done.

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