When Dr. Kara Davis first started her career in pediatric oncology, she never thought she would become a laboratory researcher making major strides for childhood cancer research treatments and cures. During her fellowship, Dr. Davis was inspired to use her pediatric oncology experience to directly make a difference in children’s cancer research. Now, Dr. Davis runs her own lab out of Stanford that focuses on accelerating treatments for the children who need it most.
We are proud to fund her research through our partner, CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, a national non-profit on a mission to end childhood cancer by driving targeted and innovative research with measurable results in an accelerated time frame.
Dr. Davis’ research focuses on the most common form of childhood cancer - acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Her team is gaining a better understanding of why patients’ cells react differently to chemotherapy. To better understand the diversity of cells in each patient’s leukemia, her revolutionary approach allows her team to analyze hundreds of thousands of individual leukemia cells from each patient.
“We hope that this research on ALL will help us be more precise in determining which patients may be at a high risk for relapse early in treatment so that we can intervene earlier and in a smarter way,” said Dr. Davis.
Dr. Davis’ clinical research will directly help children like Anna, who was diagnosed with ALL at just 18 months old. Anna was immediately put on a chemotherapy regimen and had to endure weekly clinic visits, numerous hospital stays, MRIs, surgeries, blood and platelet transfusions, the loss of her hair and more. Anna completed two and a half years of treatment and she has been in remission since September of 2011.
“Finding a cure so that no child’s life is lost to this brutal disease is the ultimate goal that we all dream of. Every new medical breakthrough is a step in the right direction and keeping up that momentum is so very important to achieve that goal,” said Krissy, Anna’s mom. “Without proper funding and research, we put ourselves in a position to lose that momentum which is devastating to think about.”
Dr. Davis’s team’s most exciting findings were recently published in Nature Medicine and have been widely hailed by the community as a major discovery for ALL patients. They have identified a particular type of cell that is associated with future relapse – they can see these cells “hiding” in the millions of cells that are present when a child is diagnosed with leukemia. This discovery will help them better determine if the child battling ALL will relapse following treatment and help doctors better treat their patient.
“This work has been a labor of love, taking seven years to get to this point with lots of ups and downs. We are certainly not at the end, really only the beginning, but getting the foundation in place and first manuscript submitted are still big milestones toward bringing our single-cell approach to clinical utility,” said Dr. Davis. “CureSearch and Love Your Melon have made it possible for this work to continue. Without this grant, it is so much more difficult to proceed with this work and to keep the research going. Plus, we love doing research in cute, warm LYM beanies!” said Dr. Davis.