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$1 Million Gift to Boost Research, Treatment of Children’s Brain Tumors

PALO ALTO – The Center for Children’s Brain Tumors at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford has received a $1 million gift from the Listwin Family Foundation, of Woodside, Calif., the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health announced today.

Scientists at the Center will use the funds to help unlock the molecular origins of medulloblastoma, the most common primary central nervous system tumor that arises in childhood. The gift will provide immediate funding for research that will bring together experienced physicians and scientists who will investigate fundamental mechanisms of medullablastoma; improve imaging methods to detect and analyze the tumors; and explore potential therapies. Medulloblastoma most often strikes children under age 10, and has a survival rate of 60 to 80 percent.

The gift will be matched by Price Charities, which previously pledged to match any gift to the Center for Children’s Brain Tumors up to $1 million.

“We chose the Center for Children’s Brain Tumors because it combines Packard Hospital’s strong clinical experience in treating brain tumors with Stanford’s groundbreaking basic science research,” Don Listwin said.

Listwin, who heads the Canary Foundation, a nonprofit that funds research on early cancer detection, added, “Through this gift, we want to foster research that uses the newest biomedical technologies to identify and treat tumors in their earliest stages.”

Canary Foundation’s long-term vision is to help create simple blood tests that identify cancers at their earliest, most curable stages. Unlike many foundations, Canary sets short-term goals and directly funds researchers to pursue them.

The Center’s research team plans to use bioluminescent technology pioneered at Stanford to develop imaging techniques for early, non-invasive detection of brain tumor growth. Using these methods, the scientists also will be able to test the effectiveness of new therapies. The Center is led by Matthew Scott, PhD, professor of developmental biology, of genetics, and of bioengineering, and chair of Stanford’s Bio-X initiative; Michael S.B. Edwards, MD, the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Professor of Pediatric Neurosurgery and director of regional pediatric neurosurgery; and Paul Fisher, MD, the Beirne Family Medical Director of the Center. More than 15 faculty from a dozen departments at Stanford are joining in the effort.

“We don’t have a good understanding of brain tumors, especially the mechanisms by which they originate and grow,” Scott said. “But given recent advancements in molecular and developmental biology, the answers are within reach. The key to progress is to put together a team with both experimental and clinical expertise.”

Scott and Edwards plan to provide infrastructure and other initiatives, including seed grants, to accelerate progress by the diverse set of researchers who are participating in the Center.

“It has been exciting to see the level of interest in the new Center,” Scott said. “We are tremendously grateful to the Listwin Family Foundation for helping us launch this effort.”

Edwards noted that the Listwin gift, along with the matching funds from Price Charities, provides critical funding that can be used immediately for tumor research that “ultimately will lead to more effective treatments beyond what chemotherapy, radiation, and surgical options currently allow.”