DCC Funds at Work: Sylvester Researcher Making Progress against Childhood Leukemia

Why do some children with leukemia respond well to treatment while others do not? Noted cancer researcher Julio C. Barredo, M.D., professor and Toppel Family Chair in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, is making progress in finding an answer to that life-and-death question.

“Today, we can cure more than 80 percent of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” says Barredo. “By studying why treatments fail and why some patients relapse, our goal is to find strategies to save their lives.”

Barredo’s groundbreaking research is supported by funds raised by the Dolphins Cancer Challenge (DCC), which will be held on February 20, 2016, at Sun Life Stadium. The sixth annual DCC includes opportunities to ride, run, walk or be a virtual participant, with all funds going to Sylvester.

“Our work to understand childhood leukemia would be very difficult to do without the financial support from the DCC,” says Barredo, adding that 20 percent of funds raised each year is allocated for pediatric cancer research. “So far, we have received about $2 million in funding from the DCC.”

Currently, Barredo is focusing his research on how to block cancer cells from receiving the nutrients and energy they need to grow and multiply. His studies led to a recent clinical trial at Sylvester using Metformin, a diabetes drug that prevents cancer cells from processing and discarding their abnormal proteins, leading to cell death.

Working closely with Ronan Swords, M.D., Ph.D., the Pap Corps Endowed Professor in Leukemia and the leader of the adult leukemia program at Sylvester, Barredo discovered that pevonedistat, a compound tested in clinical trials for adult patients with acute myeloid leukemia, is also effective in fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia in children.

“At Sylvester, we take a collaborative approach to leukemia research, and share our findings through an international consortium,” says Barredo. “Our goal is to translate our laboratory findings into new leukemia treatments for children and adults as rapidly as possible.”

To learn more about the DCC, visit and watch the “DCC with Me” video.

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