Meet Our Childhood Cancer Experts:
Director, Pediatric Oncology Division of Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
It isn't every day a gene is cloned, let alone one that plays a paramount role in a common form of pediatric leukemia.
But back in 1992, that's precisely what happened in the laboratory of Donald Small, M.D., Ph.D. It turns out that the gene, dubbed FLT-3, is linked to acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)—one of the most common blood cancers in children and adults.
He's not one to shy away from complex challenges. In fact, he thrives on them. Ask him what steered him to the field of pediatric oncology, which contains some of the most opaque medical mysteries of any specialty, and where patients span several distinct age groups and therefore possess varying needs and responses to therapy, and he’ll tell you: “I like the complexity.”
Even as Dr. Alan Friedman discusses his tremendously exciting research pursuits into some of the most challenging aspects of pediatric oncology, he never wavers from his modest, even-keeled disposition.
Chen's primary area of research focuses on bone marrow transplantation (BMT), a highly complex and specialized aspect of pediatric oncology that, in recent years, has become an accepted form of therapy for an increasingly broad range of cancers.
Allen Chen, M.D., Ph.D., M.H.S. calls working in pediatric oncology, "an extraordinary privilege.”
When it comes to discussing the realities of current cancer therapies, Christopher Gamper, M.D., PhD., doesn't mince words. "Conventional therapy knocks down the immune response. In a way, what we do to treat patients directly subverts what we're trying to accomplish," he says matter-of-factly, referring to the immune-suppressing effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
From the time he was an undergraduate student, Dr. Loeb knew he wanted to specialize in oncology. But it wasn't until he started his pediatric rotation in medical school that he narrowed his focus to pediatric oncology.
Listening to Dr. Zambidis talk about the focus of his pediatric oncology research is a lot like gaining access to an incredibly exciting secret. But because the mystery hasn't yet revealed itself in its entirety, a full-scale disclosure remains out of reach.
When deciding which field of medicine to enter, Dr Symons contemplated where she could make the most difference—both in the lives of patients and in the advancement of science. It's no surprise, then, that she chose to pursue pediatric oncology. Although she is only in the early stages of her career, already it's clear that Dr. Symons is well on her way to accomplishing her professional goals.
He describes the quest this way. In cancer, certain groups of proteins called transcription factors become deregulated through genetic mutations. As a result, these mutations create what Dr. Paz-Priel calls a 'survival pathway' for certain cancers. "Our understanding is that, in a very clever way, cancer cells—through these mutations—can maintain survival by outsmarting the normal physiology of the body," he says.
Kathy Ruble, R.N., C.P.N.P., Ph.D.
When choosing where to focus her professional nursing skills, Dr. Ruble based her decision largely on where she could make the biggest difference. She knew that in pediatric oncology, she would have an opportunity to build long-term relationships with patients and their families. That sealed her decision.
Dr. Patrick Brown recalls precisely the moment that he knew he wanted to make pediatric oncology a career. He was in his third year of medical school, and had just been assigned to a pediatric oncology rotation. After meeting with the first few patients, he was hooked.
Eric Raabe, M.D., Ph.D.
Eric Raabe, M.D., Ph.D., instructor in oncology in the Division of Pediatric Oncology. As a physician-scientist, he will focus on pediatric brain tumor research.
Eric was a neural science major at Brown University. He went on to receive his M.D. and Ph.D. from the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine. From there, he completed his pediatric internship and residency at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. After spending a year working in Africa as part of the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative, Eric came to Johns Hopkins as a pediatric oncology fellow. Working in the laboratory of Dr. Charles Eberhart in Neuropathology, Eric successfully established a human neural stem cell system to create genetically accurate models of pediatric brain tumors.
With his interest is Neuro-Oncology, Eric will work closely with Dr. Ken Cohen. He also will attend on the inpatients service and see patients in the children’s oncology outpatient clinic, including Pediatric Neuro-Oncology referrals.
Eric will continue his research in the new Smith Building of the Wilmer Eye Institute in the Neuropathology Division where he will continue to collaborate with and be mentored by Dr. Charles Eberhart. Collaborating with colleagues in neuropathology and the Wilmer Eye Institute will strengthen the multidisciplinary research approach at Johns Hopkins and enrich the research environment of the Kimmel Cancer Center.
Edward Allan Sison, M.D.
Early in his first year of medical school, Dr. Sison became involved with a program that paired medical students with children receiving cancer treatment. He was amazed by the strength of these children and their families. And it was then that he decided that he would become a pediatric oncologist.