UIC recieves large grant for Pediatric Oncology research

Marlene Bouvier, associate professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was awarded a $96,518 Pediatric Oncology Research Grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation this September.

The nonprofit organization funds more childhood cancer research organizations through grants than any other organization in the nation except for the U.S. government. The grant would aid in Bouvier’s research endeavors on pediatric glioma, or tumors. The research is part of her long-standing interest in the molecular cell biology of certain antigens involved in cancer.

An antigen is a foreign body that attacks healthy cells, thereby initiating cancer.

The foundation originated as a challenge between three businessmen to give back to the community. The name of the foundation comes from the signature head-shaving events, where volunteer “shavees” raise money and shave off their hair to stand in solidarity with kids fighting cancer.

In 2010 alone, more than $21.5 million has been raised, some of which came from events at the University’s Chicago campus. Two were held last February and March at the University’s Medical Center and the James Stukel Tower Events Center respectively.

These University-affiliated events collectively raised about $23,900.

Gavin Quinn, sophomore in criminology, law and justice at UIC, participated as a “shavee” at the James Stukel Tower event.

“The St. Baldrick’s event has allowed me to help raise both awareness and funding to fight childhood cancer by simply getting a haircut,” he said in an e-mail. “This event is a great tool for cancer patients who can visually see that others are fighting with them. The simplicity of the event allows many college students who may not have money of their own to donate to be able to help such an important cause by sacrificing their hair.”

When asked about how Bouvier was chosen as a recipient, Traci Shirk, foundation representative, said at least three oncology research experts take a look at the grant proposals.

“These experts guide the board of directors in their funding decisions,” Shirk said. “Dr. Bouvier’s research fits perfectly with the foundation’s current and long-term goals and mission statement: The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancer and to give survivors a long and healthy life.”

Quinn said in an e-mail the event is “a way to help fight this disease in order to, hopefully one day, allow every child the opportunity to attend a higher education institution.”

“I view this cause very seriously and hope that I, together with other scientists, can contribute to improve the outcome for children,” Bouvier said. “My motivations are to train young scientists to do high quality research in a discipline and creative way and to contribute to the field of pediatric oncology.”