Medical College of Wisconsin Receives Grant from the St. Baldricks Foundation for Cancer Research

Aug. 17, 2012

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) received a one year, $50,275 supportive care research grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to study new therapies for hearing loss in pediatric cancer patients.

Fritz Sieber, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and medicine at MCW with joint appointments in the Department of Cell Biology, Neurobiology & Anatomy and the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, and a researcher at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Research Institute, is the primary investigator of the grant. Co-investigators are Christina Runge, Ph.D., associate professor of otolaryngology and communication sciences at MCW; and David Friedland, M.D., Ph.D., professor and vice chair of otolaryngology and communication sciences at MCW.

About half of children and adolescents who become long-term cancer survivors develop therapy-induced hearing loss that is cumulative and irreversible. The patients most at risk are those with brain tumors and other cancers that require treatment with drugs called “platins,” combined with radiation to the head and neck.

This hearing loss adversely affects speech, reading ability, communication, academic performance and overall psychosocial development, which sometimes leads to low self-esteem and social isolation.

In this research project, Dr. Sieber and his team will investigate the use of high doses of dietary selenium to prevent cisplatin-induced hearing loss. The researchers will use a rat model to activate pathways to prevent hearing loss more effectively than conventional antioxidants.

“Selenium has been shown to be effective in mitigating other forms of radiation injury to normal tissue,” said Dr. Sieber. “We are hopeful that selenium will be shown to reduce this devastating side effect of cancer treatments, and we are grateful for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation for their support of this project.”

Dan Devine, the mayor of West Allis, Wis., which held its third St. Baldrick’s event this summer, said, “These events always bring the community together, are lots of fun and raise money for an incredibly valuable cause. Learning that the money raised by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation will go directly to the Medical College of Wisconsin, it makes it even more special.”

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