INDIANAPOLIS—Team JOEY, a program of the Heroes Foundation, awarded Dr. Karen Pollok of the Herman B. Wells Center for Pediatric Research at Indiana University Simon Cancer Center and the IU School of Medicine $40,000 to advance progress toward a cure for brain cancer in children. Nick and Elizabeth Keller spearheaded the fundraising in honor of their son Joey, who lost his battle with brain cancer in 2012 at the age of 9.
“I am greatly encouraged by Dr. Pollok’s work and its potential to more effectively fight brain cancers in young patients. Team JOEY supporters have been generous with their time and money, and we are proud to support this research in honor of our son,” Nick Keller said.
In collaboration with Dr. Chie-Schin Shih, Program Leader of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology at IU School of Medicine, Dr. Pollok’s three-person team is developing a pediatric brain tumor program focusing on using novel methods to look for drugs that can more effectively penetrate the brain. The $40,000 helps make it possible for Dr. Pollok to study the most clinically relevant pediatric patient samples, which are associated with Dr. Shih’s work.
“The Team JOEY story brings the reality of the situation to the lab. It gives a face to the work we do. It makes us feel like we really can have an impact,” Dr. Pollok says.
“Our long-term goal is to improve the standard of care for pediatric patients with brain tumors and build on therapies that are necessary to secure NIH funding to continue making strides and helping children.”
There is a critical, unmet need to discover and develop new therapeutics that are brain permeable, Pollok said. One of the biggest challenges with brain tumors is that their diversity of mutations makes them hard to kill. In addition, the blood brain barrier makes it difficult for toxic agents such as chemotherapy drugs to get across this vessel to do their job, and these tumors often migrate to healthy areas of the brain and start growing there.