Extramural Discovery Research Grants in Childhood Cancer

The American Cancer Society funds scientists who conduct research about cancer at medical schools, universities, research institutes, and hospitals throughout the United States. We use a rigorous and independent peer review process to select the most innovative research projects proposals to fund. 

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Total Childhood Cancer Grants in Effect as of August 1, 2021

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Total Childhood Cancer Grants in Effect as of August 1, 2021

Spotlight on Childhood Cancer Grantees

Here are some examples of the research areas and scientists the American Cancer Society (ACS) funds. These investigators are working to find answers that will save more lives from childhood cancer and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.  

Using Mice to Test Potential New Targets for Treating Osteosarcoma

Grantee: Claudia Benavente, PhD
Institution: The Regents of the University of California, Irvine
Area of Focus: DNA Mechanisms in Cancer 
Grant Term: 7/1/2019 to 6/30/2023

Osteosarcoma is the most common type of bone cancer and most often occurs in children and young adults. People with osteosarcoma that has not spread to other areas of the body (known as metastasis) have a better chance of living for at least 5 years after the diagnosis compared to someone whose cancer has metastasized. To develop new treatments, researchers need to better understand what causes the cancer to metastasize.

In previous studies, Claudia Benavente, PhD, and her research team found a protein called UHRF1 that builds up in osteosarcoma tumors to help them grow, and can possibly help researchers learn how these tumors spread. She and her team focused on how the UHRF1 protein in mice with osteosarcoma interacts with the RB1 gene, which helps stop tumors from growing. Their results suggest that blocking the buildup of UHRF1 in the tumor may help dramatically reduce the spread of osteosarcoma in mice, and increase their survival.

With this grant, Benavente is working to better define the role of UHRF1 and hopes the research her team is doing can lead to the development of a new type of osteosarcoma drug to target the UHRF1 protein.

Why does it matter? UHRF1 builds up in other cancers, including certain types of breast, prostate, and lung cancer. If Benavente’s work proves to be helpful, it has the potential to help not only children with osteosarcoma but also adults with other types of cancer.

Evaluating Outpatient Chemotherapy for Children with HR ALL to Improve Quality of Care

Grantee: Lori Ranney, MSN
Institution: Winona State University in Minnesota
Graduate Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Practice
Grant Term: 07/01/2017 to 6/30/2019

Research shows that receiving chemotherapy in a clinic as an outpatient, rather than as an inpatient in a hospital, improves quality of life for both patients and their families. Currently, though, children who have high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia (HR ALL) receive high-dose methotrexate as inpatients. In general, these patients and their families stay in the hospital for 4 straight days and for 4 different times over a 2-month period to get their treatment.

As part of her graduate study for a Doctorate in Nursing Practice, Lori Ranney, MSN, transitioned 10 patients in one treatment center from being inpatients getting supportive care after receiving methotrexate to being at-home with outpatient supportive care visits. She created education plans for staff and families and allowed time for feedback so sessions could be changed as needed. 

For the patients and their families who chose at-home, supportive care, quality-of-life improved for: well-being, activity level, appetite, sleep, and family time. The average time patients spent in the hospital decreased about 38 hours per methotrexate cycle—from 54 hours to about 16 hours.

Why does it matter? Since leukemia is the most common cancer diagnosed in children, this approach can help improve quality of life throughout treatment for many patients and their families. Ranney's findings could help improve the delivery method of chemotherapy by helping to make care more individual to each patient's needs, and may help decrease hospital stays for children with HR ALL. This result could lead to  lowered health care costs, less stress,and overall improvement in the quaity of life for these children and their families.

 As a next step, Ranney hopes to study moving the infusion of methotrexate from inpatient to at-home care, with the goal of keeping kids with HR ALL out of the hospital during treatment.


From Our Researchers

The American Cancer Society employs a staff of full-time researchers who pursue answers that help us understand how to prevent, find, and treat cancer, including childhood cancer.

Childhood Cancer Statistics Update in 2021 Facts & Figures

Researcher: Rebecca Siegel, MPH
Institution: American Cancer Society, Intramural Research Department
ACS Research Program: Surveillance and Health Services Research

The Challenge: To understand how well cancer control is working in the United States, we need up-to-date information about the number of people affected by cancer and where they live.

The Research: Each year, the American Cancer Society’s Surveillance and Health Services Research program analyzes data on cancer in the United States, including childhood cancers, as part of its Cancer Facts & Figures report. The process is led by Rebecca Siegel, MPH

Here are some key findings from the 2021 report for American children (ages 1 to 14) and adolescents (ages 15 to 19). Researchers reported:

  • Cancer is the second most common cause of death among children in the US. The first cause is accidents.
  • 10,500 new cases* of cancer in children and 5,090 in adolescents are expected to be diagnosed in 2021. Since 1975, the rate of diagnosis has been increasing slightly in children (0.6%) and adolescents (0.7% a year). The reasons for these increases remain unclear.
  • 1,190 deaths from cancer in children and 590 deaths from cancer in adolescents are expected to occur in 2021. Death rates for cancer in children have decreased continuously for decades. Between 1970 and 2017, the cancer death rate for children declined by 68% and 63% for adolescents.
  • Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, accounting for 28% of all cases, followed by 26% of cases from brain and other nervous system tumors.
  • In adolescents, brain and nervous system tumors are most common, accounting for 21% of all cases, followed by 20% of cases from lymphoma. 
  • Between 1970 and 2017, remission rates of childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) have achieved 90% to 100%. This seems to be mostly because of improvements in established chemotherapy drugs, rather than the development of new drugs. The death rate of leukemia dramatically declined over that same period, decreasing 83% in children and 68% in adolescents.
  • The 5-year survival rate for all types of childhood cancer combined is 84%. 

To learn more, see:  Cancer Statistics Center website.

* These numbers do not include benign and borderline malignant brain tumors because they were not required to be reported to cancer registries until 2004. To make statistical estimates like these requires 15 years of historical data.