$150K Pledge from Om Foundation to Support Pediatric Cancer Research at Rutgers Cancer Institute

Investigators to focus on third most common childhood brain cancer

New Brunswick, N.J., November 25, 2019 – A $150,000 pledge from the Om Foundation will aid investigators at Rutgers Cancer Institute in examining a certain type of medication that impacts gene activity in the treatment of a form of pediatric brain cancer.   

Above - from left: Members of Om Parikh's family, Krupa Parikh, Ketal Parikh, and Yashaswi Parikh, present the first installment of a $150 thousand pledge to Dr. Maxim Yankelevich and Stephanie Kenyon of the Rutgers Cancer Institute Development Office.

Ependymoma is the third most common childhood brain cancer, for which treatment results have been unsatisfactory due to a lack of effective drugs. Surgical removal and radiation therapy are standard treatments, and chemotherapy has not been shown to improve survival. Recurrence is common.

Ependymomas are shown to have many potentially ‘good’ genes that are silenced through an epigenetic mechanism – meaning these genes are still present in the tumor but not active. Certain medications can reactivate these silenced genes and cause normalization of cancer cells and increased cell killing if exposed to radiation therapy. Researchers at Rutgers Cancer Institute want to explore whether drugs known as epigenetic modifiers will improve treatment results in ependymoma.

“Results from this research may for the first time demonstrate important activity of epigenetic modifiers in ependymoma and other brain tumors and provide necessary data to develop new treatment strategies in treating this disease,” notes Rutgers Cancer Institute pediatric hematologist/oncologist Maxim Yankelevich, MD, who is the principal investigator of the work and also an associate professor of pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

The Om Parikh Memorial Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research that was established earlier this year to support this work at Rutgers Cancer Institute is named for Om Parikh, who died of oligodendroglioma, a rare brain tumor, at age 13 in 2018.

“Om always remained optimistic despite his struggle with cancer. Our family and the Om Foundation are pleased to know that through this research, Om will continue to make a positive impact on the lives of children battling cancer,” notes Ketul Parikh, founder of the Om Foundation and Om’s father.

Above - from left: Members of Om Parikh's family, Govinda Rajan, Krupa Parikh, Ketul Parikh and Yashaswi Parikh (far right), celebrate a signed agreement establishing the Om Parikh Memorial Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research with Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Division Chief Dr. Peter Cole.

“Part of the mission of Rutgers Cancer Institute, as New Jersey Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, is to conduct in-depth research and translate those findings into clinical trials that will lead to new and improved therapies. We are grateful to the Om Foundation for its support of this critical work so that we can continue to improve outcomes for children with ependymoma,” notes Rutgers Cancer Institute Chief of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and the Embrace Kids Foundation Endowed Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Peter D. Cole, MD, who is also a professor of pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

About Rutgers Cancer Institute

As New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute, along with its partner RWJBarnabas Health, offers the most advanced cancer treatment options including bone marrow transplantation, proton therapy, CAR T-cell therapy and complex robotic surgery.  Along with clinical trials and novel therapeutics such as precision medicine and immunotherapy – many of which are not widely available – patients have access to these cutting-edge therapies at Rutgers Cancer Institute in New Brunswick, Rutgers Cancer Institute at University Hospital in Newark, as well as through RWJBarnabas Health facilities.

Along with world-class treatment, which is often fueled by on-site research conducted in Rutgers Cancer Institute laboratories, patients and their families also can seek cancer preventative services and education resources throughout the Rutgers Cancer Institute and RWJBarnabas Health footprint statewide. To make a tax-deductible gift to support the Cancer Institute, call 848-932-8013 or visit www.cinj.org/giving.


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