University of London
Department of Neuroscience
Children and adolescents who are cancer patients have only a few treatments specifically designed for their cancer. The lack of development of pediatric cancer drugs forces pediatric oncologists to use adult cancer drugs to treat their young patients. Dr. Cesare Spadoni, who lost his first daughter to cancer, is identifying treatments for the most common pediatric cancers with poorest prognoses. Two of the cancers at the forefront of his efforts are Medulloblastoma and Rhabdomyosarcoma.
Medulloblastoma accounts for 20% of all childhood brain tumors and has high heterogeneity and a tendency to metastasize. Ongoing research has identified 3 synergistic combinations that inhibit several targets found in the cancer and next steps with bioinformatics will identify a lead compound against two targets in vitro and in vivo models of medulloblastoma.
Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common pediatric soft tissue sarcoma with the aggressive subtype, alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, resulting from fusion of two genes, PAX3 and FOXO1. In preclinical research, the small molecule drug, volasertib, which inhibits PLK1 enzyme, results in reduced expression of the abnormal fused proteins. Volasertib has already been studied as single agent in Phase I clinical trials in children with leukemia and refractory solid tumors and the recommended Phase 2 dose (RP2D) for children has been defined. The combined treatment of volasertib and chemotherapy vincristine may begin a Phase I clinical trial to treat relapsed or refractory rhabdomyosarcoma patients with and without the gene fusion abnormalities.
With NFCR support, Dr. Spadoni’s efforts have led to this promising therapeutic now being commercialized through the AIM-HI Translational Research Initiative. To learn more, click here.
Cesare Spadoni holds an MSc in Applied Molecular Biology and a PhD in Neurosciences from UCL, University of London, as well as an MBA from the Central European University, Budapest. He has more than 20 years of experience in the drug development field, in both scientific and commercial roles. He started his career as research scientist in a pharmaceutical company (Eisai, London) and in academia (Institute of Enzymology, Budapest. He held senior positions at AMRI, Aptuit Laurus, ThalesNano and Auxiliis BV. After losing his first daughter to cancer, he founded the aPODD foundation, a London-based charity focused on accelerating pediatric oncology drug development for treating childhood cancer. As chairman and trustee, he is actively involved on a pro-bono basis in drug repurposing projects, advocacy efforts and research collaborations with other childhood cancer charities.
Areas of Focus
Years of NFCR Funding
2017 – Present
Breast Cancer Survivors Need to Take Actions to Reduce Their Increased Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Nut-Consumption and Breast Cancer Survival
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women in the world and, although less common, it can also affect men. An estimated 284,200 new breast cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year, and tragically an estimated 44,130 deaths will occur. While screening and treatment options have become more advanced, it is still important for women to proactively reduce breast cancer risk factors. Thankfully, a team of renowned researchers recently discovered that breast cancer prevention could be as simple as eating a handful of trail mix. Connecting the Dots Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Shanghai Municipal Center of Disease Control and Prevention concluded that nut consumption appeared to be associated with higher survival rates among long-term breast cancer survivors. The researchers suggest emphasizing this finding as a modifiable lifestyle factor in survivor guidelines. The team came to this conclusion after analyzing associations of peanut and tree nut consumption with overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival (DFS) among 3,449 long-term breast cancer survivors aged 20 to 75 years who participated in the Shanghai Breast Cancer Survival Study. Of these participants, 3,148 women reported nut consumption, and 301 women reported no nut consumption. The researchers obtained a detailed dietary assessment, which the women completed at the 5-year post-diagnosis follow-up interview between October 2007 and October 2011. The team converted the consumption of nuts into grams per week and calculated total nut consumption as the sum of intake from peanuts, walnuts, and other nuts. Here’s what they found: Participants who consumed nuts regularly had higher rates of OS and DFS (by 4.7% and 7.9%, respectively) 10 years after diagnosis. There were positive associations of nut consumption with OS and DFS after a dose-response pattern for participants with greater-than-median (17.32 g per week) nut intake compared with non-consumers. The team explained that nuts are a common nutrient-dense food seen in healthy diets. As such, several studies have found nuts to be associated with reduced mortality, particularly mortality due to cardiovascular diseases, in the general population. Previously we knew little on whether the health benefits of nut intake extended to breast cancer survivors, particularly regarding the DFS. The goal of this study was to address this knowledge gap. Which nuts should you be eating? While the study mentions peanuts and walnuts by name, there are a variety of nuts that can offer cancer-fighting benefits. Here’s what experts at National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) have to say: Brazil nuts contain the richest source of natural selenium, a nutrient that may play a critical role in reducing the risk of certain cancers Walnuts have pedunculagin, a tannin that the body metabolizes into urolithins. Urolithins are compounds that bind to estrogen receptors and may play a role in preventing breast cancer. Related NFCR-Supported Research NFCR-funded researchers also point out that while eating cancer-fighting foods is a great step, there are other essential factors to include to prevent various cancers – including breast cancer. Exercise and regular screening (where applicable) are vital in preventing and treating cancer. Recently, NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Rakesh Jain and his team at Massachusetts General […]