Hyundai Grant for UF Researcher in Children’s Oncology

elias-s-bioSince 1998, Hyundai Hope On Wheels has been awarding innovative research projects at Children’s Oncology Group institutions across the country. Grant winning doctors and researchers are at the frontline of this very important battle. Elias Sayour, MD, assistant professor of neurourgeryat the University of Florida, received a $250,000 grant for his research on pediatric brain tumors.
Current treatments for children with refractory brain tumors fail to control their disease, necessitating the development of new treatments that will cure these tumors without hurting patients. Sayour proposed harnessing the immune system, to help fight and eradicate these tumors though the use of nanotechnology. Nanoparticles are small enough to deliver information to the immune system teaching it to fight cancer. He has pioneered suitable cancer vaccines from as few as 100 tumor cells, making possible the ability to offer cancer immunotherapy to the majority of patients from whom small amounts of tumor tissue can be obtained during surgery or biopsy. Their preliminary data has demonstrated that RNA extracted from these tumors can offer effective anti-tumor immunity in mice when loaded into nanoparticles.
He believes that RNA-nanoparticle vaccines targeting pediatric brain tumors will induce superior immune responses without toxicity, leading to eradication of invasive tumors. To achieve this end, he will investigate where these particles travel and the kind of immune responses they generate. He will investigate how to improve these vaccines before establishing the most effective vaccine formulation. Then, he will examine their safety profile and if they can generate tumor immunity in mouse models for pediatric cancer.
Brain tumors are the most frequent cause of cancer-related death in children and, despite aggressive therapy, almost half of the children diagnosed with the most common malignant brain tumors will die. Furthermore, survivors are often left with severe and lifelong treatment-associated deficits. RNA-nanoparticle vaccines can provide a more effective and specific therapy for these children without toxicity. These particles have a wide range of clinical application for all malignancies. In summary, he proposed engineering these particles to make them highly effective in teaching the immune system to eradicate the most common type of brain tumor in children.