Children's scientists on cutting edge of research

February 02, 2010

Physician scientists at Children’s Medical Center are on the cutting edge of research to find the causes of many childhood diseases in the hopes of one day curing them. One such physician scientist is Ralph DeBerardinis, M.D., Ph.D., a physician with the Genetics and Metabolism Division at Children’s and an assistant professor of Pediatrics and Genetics at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Glioblastoma — the deadliest tumor

Dr. DeBerardinis was recently awarded $200,000 to study the deadliest form of brain tumor, called glioblastoma. In his words, survival statistics for the disease are “dismal,” with the average life expectancy of only 14.5 months despite surgery, radiation and drug therapy.

Dr. DeBerardinis’ research is entitled “Can glioblastoma growth be suppressed by targeting glutamine metabolism?” and is a study in mice implanted with human glioblastoma tissue.

His hope is that the study will identify specific enzymes that can be targeted to slow tumor growth and to prolong survival in mice. Longer term, he anticipates that the study will improve the understanding of how tumors grow and will identify novel therapeutic targets for the disease.

If his work in mice is successful, Dr. DeBerardinis would plan future studies to target key metabolic steps in human patients.

Funding the study

Funding for Dr. DeBerardinis’ research is coming from the new Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) as part of the institute’s first round of grants for cancer research projects. CPRIT was founded in 2007 after Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment authorizing the state to fund cancer research and prevention programs. His grant is part of $18.5 million awarded to UT Southwestern by CPRIT, the most funding received by any selected Texas institution.

Dr. DeBerardinis’ research is considered high impact/high risk, and the grant money he received is designated for projects that are developmental or exploratory in nature.