April 27, 2023

Interview with Grant Recipient Studying Pediatric Stem Cells 

Children’s Leukemia Research Association Executive Director Angela Russo had the opportunity to interview Dr. Johannes Zakrzewski of the Hackensack University Medical Center
and Executive Director William Evans of the Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation. CLRA has provided a grant for them to research pediatric stem cell transplants.

Dr. Johannes Zakrzewski trained at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and joined Hackensack University Medical Center as a new research center was opening a few years ago. The center is focused on laboratory research as well as serving the existing hospital. His focus is on pediatric stem cell transplants. While he does serve as an Attending Physician, his focus is primarily on research in the lab in the medical school.

We understand T-cells play a critical role in fighting cancer. Dr. Johannes Zakrzewski notes that while research is moving forward, it takes many months for just one experiment, so progress is slow but steady. This is a five-year program but with the support of the CLRA grant, progress moves a bit faster. He is now able to optimize his approach, testing on mice, and learning as he goes. The goal is to move from research on mice to research with clinical trials in humans.

The Challenge Facing Researchers

The challenges faced are that there are pediatric patients with terminal leukemia who have diseases that are more challenging than others to treat. There is a small percentage of patients whose treatment is resistant to current treatment protocols which means they aren’t ever in remission and relapse often. The research is designed to support complicated pediatric patients as well as those with chemo-resistant leukemia. We are looking to improve how T-cells function, so the treatment supports the body healing itself long-term, with remission being the goal.

With these types of treatments available, less patients will lose their lives to this terrible disease.

Research Support is Important to Innovations, Treatments, and Cures

William Evans, the Executive Director of the Hackensack Meridian Health Foundation Center for Discovery and Innovation. It is here that Dr. Zakrzewski is a primary faculty member. Mr. Evans appreciates the support for research from the CLRA Board of Directors and Donors. It is important that we continue to support researchers. CLRA was founded in 1965 and we know that our grants have, and continue, to support revolutionary research like this.

If you are interested in applying for a research grant, please visit our Researcher page, and to make a donation, please click DONATE at the top of our home page.

As always, we appreciate our researchers and donors who support our patients.