News abounds this first week of spring, and we bring you fresh insights from new scientific studies cultivated by experts at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. But first, take a moment to celebrate a special award that recognizes the dedication of pediatric oncologist Richard Aplenc, MD, PhD, MSCE.
Pediatric Oncologist Recognized for Transformational Research
Hyundai Hope On Wheels® (HHOW), a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting pediatric cancer, this week marked 18 years of commitment and a total of $115 million donated in its pledge to end childhood cancer. During an award ceremony themed, “A Day Without Pediatric Cancer,” held at the New York International Auto Show, HHOW recognized Richard Aplenc, MD, PhD, MSCE, a pediatric oncologist at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for his dedication to research aimed at improving immune therapies for children with acute myelogenous leukemia, the second most common blood cancer in children. Last month, HHOW named Dr. Aplenc as one of four recipients of the Hyundai Quantum Awards, and each will receive a $1 million grant.
“‘You have pediatric cancer,’ are four words that children and parents should never hear,” said Scott Stark, HHOW chairman. “Children deserve to grow, play, and learn without having to face cancer. While research has helped to achieve cure rates of up to 80 percent in some forms of pediatric cancer, that is just not good enough for us. We continue to fund innovative research and serve as a champion on behalf of these kids.”
Beginning June 1, a Hyundai “vehicle of hope” will tour the nation and visit children’s cancer hospitals to collect handprints of courageous pediatric cancer fighters. HHOW will present more than $13 million in new grant awards at these unique Handprint Ceremonies.
Researchers Find Clue to Risk of Osteoporosis, Fracture
Osteoporosis is more common in women and often runs in families. A new study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research by a CHOP study team sheds light on gene changes that may protect against this long-term weakening of bone.
They focused on rare variants near the gene EN1 because previous research reported by McGill University investigators had discovered that this site showed strong effects on increasing bone density in adults. For the current study, co-led by senior authors Babette S. Zemel, PhD, director of the Nutrition and Growth Laboratory at CHOP, and Struan F.A. Grant, PhD, a genomics researcher at CHOP and associate professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the team analyzed a cohort of 1,418 children and adolescents (733 girls and 685 males) all of European ancestry, who were part of a larger study group, the Bone Mineral Density in Childhood Study.
“We investigated whether the same gene variants that strongly affect bone density in adults also affected bone density in children,’ said co-first author Jonathan A. Mitchell, PhD, a pediatric growth researcher and instructor of Pediatrics at CHOP. “We found the effect was even stronger in children, but only in girls. The effect may exert lifetime impacts on bone health.” Alessandra Chesi, PhD, a genetics researcher at CHOP, was the other co-first author.
As these gene variants act early on in life and have implications for future bone health and vulnerability to fractures in adulthood, the researchers said these findings open up new opportunities to potentially intervene in the mechanisms influencing the skeleton and reinforce the importance of promoting bone health during childhood and adolescence, when peak bone density occurs.
Study Questions Link Between Antibiotic Use in Infancy and Obesity
Studies of the association between infant antibiotics and childhood weight gain have reported inconsistent results. One of the latest studies appeared this week in JAMA. Conducted by Jeffrey S. Gerber, MD, PhD, an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at CHOP and a senior scholar within the Penn Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, and colleagues, the study showed that exposure to antibiotics within the first six months of life compared with no exposure among nearly 40,000 children was not associated with a significant difference in weight gain through age 7.
“These findings do not support a clinically meaningful association of early-life antibiotic use with childhood weight gain,” the authors wrote. “There are many reasons to limit antibiotic exposure in young, healthy children, but weight gain is likely not one of them.”
Dr. Gerber explained two main strengths of the study that may help it stand apart from past studies that had conflicting results. First, he pointed out, the investigators did not rely on Body Mass Index as an outcome and instead used growth trajectory over time, which evaluated weight change in all children during all time points. Second, they used a complimentary twin study to address potential confounders, such as genetics and other environmental exposures that are not typically available in large datasets. The consistent lack of clinically significant association between these two cohorts was reassuring, Dr. Gerber said.
In case you missed it, we bring you the latest headlines from Cornerstone this week:
- Researchers Examine Obesity, Cardiovascular Risk in Down Syndrome: “Children and adults with Down syndrome tend to have short stature,” said Andrea Kelly, MD, MSCE, an attending physician in the division of Endocrinology and Diabetes. “We don’t know if BMI truly reflects body fat or adiposity in a group with altered body proportions. We wanted to explore that a little bit more, especially since older data suggested they might be protected from cardiovascular disease.”
- Staying Safe in the Sun: A Sun Protection Q&A: “Families can be proactive by adding a reminder in their online or phone calendars about the importance of sun protection,” said Leslie Castelo-Soccio, MD, PhD, a pediatric dermatologist.
Last week’s “In the News” summary covered predictors of childhood obesity, post-traumatic stress disorder and adults living with congenital heart disease, a rare condition known as “Alice in Wonderland syndrome,” and more.
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