A Mission to Defeat Childhood Cancer

Saurabh Agarwal in the lab posing for a photo
January 20, 2021

A faculty member in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences recently received a grant to continue his work in search of a cure for a devastating cancer that targets very young children.

Saurabh Agarwal, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, was awarded a multi-year grant of $310,000 from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The foundation, the largest philanthropic organization of pediatric cancer research, supports the most promising clinical and translational research to develop cures and better treatments for all childhood cancers. John R. Bender ’88CBA is a cofounder of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

Dr. Agarwal focuses his research on developing effective therapies for pediatric neuroblastoma, a type of childhood cancer that develops in nerve tissue outside of the central nervous system. It is most common in children under the age of five.

In recognition of Dr. Agarwal’s outstanding contributions, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation also awarded Dr. Agarwal with The Oliver Wells Fund for Neuroblastoma. This $110,000 grant supports his promising research in identifying causes of relapse in neuroblastoma patients and developing targeted therapies for treatment.

The median age of diagnosis of neuroblastoma is two years, and more than 95 percent of children are diagnosed when they are less than 10 years old. The tumor’s clinical behavior and response to therapy vary widely. Children with low- and intermediate-risk disease have better outcomes. However, for children with aggressive, high-risk neuroblastoma, survival remains poor.

While expressing his gratitude for receiving the funding, as well as to his students and mentors for their continued support, Dr. Agarwal said, “I am highly motivated to pursue my neuroblastoma research, especially in light of the stress and suffering these children and their families experience.”

The recipient of the 2019 and 2020 St. John’s University Faculty Recognition Award, Dr. Agarwal established the Pediatric Cancer Research Laboratory at St. John’s, and his research is additionally funded by the Wipe Out Kids’ Cancer Foundation and St. John’s University.

For his work on neuroblastoma cancer stem cells, Dr. Agarwal received numerous national and international awards, including the David’s Warriors Hero Award, Lerner Family Foundation Award, and Villa Joep Foundation Research Excellence Award.