Cancer Researcher at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Receives Grant from St. Baldrick’s Foundation

August 6, 2015

Edward V. Prochownik, M.D., Ph.D., director of oncology research at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and the Paul C. Gaffney Professor of Pediatrics, has been awarded a research grant of $100,000 from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research.

The award to Dr. Prochownik is one of 70 grants totaling more than $21.1 million nationally and internationally awarded by St. Baldrick’s in support of pediatric oncology research. These grants provide resources to institutions to conduct more research and enroll more children in ongoing clinical trials. Dr. Prochownik and his team will explore the implications of new observations of cancer cell growth.

“Cancer cells must alter their metabolism to provide the necessary energy and metabolic building blocks needed to support their rapid division,” said Dr. Prochownik, who also is professor of molecular genetics and biochemistry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “We have identified some of the key means by which the cell can control these changes. Confirming and extending these findings as we propose to do could provide novel and specific ways to interfere with this process and thus inhibit tumor growth while minimizing long-term side effects.”

Over the past year, Dr. Prochownik and his research team have developed a model of hepatoblastoma, the most common childhood liver cancer, which in advanced states is difficult to treat and requires use of drugs that can cause long-term toxicities.

“We have discovered that the mitochondria of these hepatoblastoma cells appear to be reprogrammed so as to allow them to function at maximal capacity and thus provide large amounts of energy and metabolic building blocks needed by the rapidly growing and dividing cancer cells,” explained Dr. Prochownik. “We hope that our observations at this level can be translated into new and specific ways of treating this cancer while at the same time reducing toxicity.”

This past year, three St. Baldrick’s head-shaving events were hosted in Pittsburgh, where more than 140 people “braved the shave” and raised nearly $86,000.

For more information about Dr. Prochownik, please visit

Andrea Kunicky, 412-692-6254,
Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919,