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Gowda receives cancer research grant from St. Baldrick’s Foundation

Are two drugs better than one when it comes to treating B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia? Funding from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation will help a Penn State College of Medicine investigator answer that question.

Dr. Chandrika Gowda, an associate professor of pediatrics and Four Diamonds researcher, received a $75,000 St. Baldrick’s Scholar Grant to continue work on a project that is exploring pairing a drug that plays a role in tumor suppression with chemotherapy drugs to improve patient outcomes. St. Baldrick’s Foundation has supported Gowda’s research for more than seven years.

Children with high-risk B-cell leukemia, especially with loss or dysfunction of the Ikaros gene, have very poor outcomes and high relapse rates. Many children who relapse with high-risk leukemia die from the disease, underscoring the need for advances in treatment.

Gowda found that a cancer-promoting protein called casein kinase II (CK2) impairs functions of the Ikaros protein that helps prevent leukemia. Inhibiting the CK2 protein can restore the ability of the Ikaros protein to function properly and prevent leukemia. She will test if using a drug that inhibits CK2 protein along with chemotherapeutic drugs that already are known to work in leukemia will have stronger anti-leukemia effects and improve patient outcomes. This strategy also helps lower the doses of each drug used and has the potential to reduce their side effects and associated toxicity.

“I would like to thank the St. Baldrick’s Foundation donors and volunteers for the important work they do in supporting my project and all pediatric cancer research,” Gowda said.

Gowda’s scholarship in Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Early-Stage Investigator Training Program (KL2) has also supported this research.

Learn more about St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

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