Young Investigator Award to James Ford by Hyundai Hope on Wheels Foundation

Hyundai-check-sm.jpgCHRI is proud to spotlight one of our members who successfully competed for funding from the Hyundai Hope on Wheels Foundation to support innovative pediatric cancer research. James Ford, DO, assistant professor of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, received the foundation’s Young Investigator Award, in the amount of $200,000. Dr. Ford’s co-investigators are Sarah Holstein, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, and DJ Murry, PharmD, Department of Pharmacy Practice and Science (also a CHRI member).

The funded project will explore a potential new drug to treat pediatric osteosarcoma patients. The specific problem being addressed is metastatic or relapsed disease. “We truly have no good treatments,” Dr. Ford said. “In a meeting just held in September, there were two phase II trials that showed that new agents did not show significant efficacy. We desperately need new agents for these kids.” The existing chemotherapy drugs for osteosarcoma often leave young survivors with lifelong toxicities.

The UNMC team will study a drug candidate that belongs in the class of compounds called tropolones. Dr. Holstein, an adult oncologist, has previously studied the cytotoxic activity of tropolones against myeloma cells, including one abbreviated MO-OH-Nap. Dr. Ford pointed out, “This new compound, MO-OH-Nap, works via iron regulation. There have been some other studies showing that iron regulation may be a good target for osteosarcoma.”

Dr. Ford and Dr. Murry have collaborated on several projects together, ever since being introduced through the Pediatric Cancer Research Group. “Dr. Murry brings expertise in drug distribution and how the new agent will impact and be processed by living organisms.”

The main objectives of the project? Dr. Ford summed it up as, “Essentially we are going to look and see if this new agent is good at killing osteosarcoma cells, optimize the dosing and see if it kills osteosarcoma in a mouse model.”

When asked how his experience treating childhood cancer patients shapes his outlook and goals in research, Dr. Ford answered, “It is really the motivation. Much of this is not what one would traditionally think of as “patient care, but I would argue that for children with pediatric cancer, research is some of the most important patient care that we can do.”

“For my patients with metastatic or relapsed osteosarcoma, we need better treatments. What we have now is not acceptable. I’m lucky to be able to collaborate with smart people who also care about these kids as we try and develop better treatments.”


by Matthew Sandbulte, CHRI Grant & Scientific Writer | October 1, 2020