Ahern Receives St. Baldrick's Foundation Grant to Study Phthalates & Cancer

August 7, 2018 by Sarah Keblin

UVM Assistant Professor of Surgery Thomas Ahern, Ph.D., is the recipient of one of 76 St. Baldrick's Foundation grants totaling more than $19.1 million to support studying innovative treatment options in the pediatric cancer space.

Thomas Ahern, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Surgery (Photo: UVM Medical Communications)

International research collaborations led by University of Vermont Cancer Center member Thomas Ahern, Ph.D., M.P.H., an assistant professor of surgery at the UVM Larner College of Medicine, have been recognized with a coveted grant from the St. Baldrick's Foundation. The award will support investigation of phthalate exposure and childhood cancers. St. Baldrick’s, the largest private funder of childhood cancer research, recently announced 76 grants totaling more than $19.1 million to support physician-scientists studying innovative treatment options in the pediatric cancer space.

Ahern’s ongoing research in the area of phthalates, a common category of chemicals added to many everyday products and some common medications, led his team to question whether phthalate exposure in utero or during childhood increases the risk of childhood cancer. The research team, which includes partners from Aarhus University in Denmark, have successfully examined Danish pharmacy records and cancer incidence data to study possible health effects of phthalates. This strategic approach capitalizes on the intensive exposure to phthalates posed by some medications to those who take them regularly. The results could indicate whether prolonged exposure impacts cancer risk, and could therefore be used to inform important policy to protect consumers, especially children, from phthalate exposure and prevent future cancers from occurring.

Ahern and his team are one of 76 research projects around the globe receiving funding this year from St. Baldrick’s. The St. Baldrick's Foundation looks to deliver on its commitment to support the most promising childhood cancer research, no matter where it takes place, through these awards.

"At St. Baldrick's, we focus on funding research that has the best potential of giving kids the healthy childhoods they deserve," said Kathleen Ruddy, CEO of the St. Baldrick's Foundation. "I'm proud to say that we have now funded more than a quarter billion dollars since 2005 to support lifesaving childhood cancer research. This achievement would not have been possible without the collective efforts of our amazing volunteers, donors and supporters across the globe. Together, we are leading the charge to take childhood back from cancer."

In addition to UVM, the following institutions were awarded new grants:  

  • Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
  • Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, Mass.
  • Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass.
  • Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Children's Hospital Boston, Boston, Mass.
  • Children's Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.
  • Children's Research Institute (CNMC), Washington, D.C.
  • Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Mass.
  • Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C.
  • Emory University, affiliated with Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Washington, D.C.
  • Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University, Boston, Mass.
  • Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Ind.
  • Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, N.Y.
  • Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich.
  • New York University School of Medicine, New York, N.Y.
  • Northwestern University, Chicago, Ill.
  • Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Ore.
  • Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, Pa.
  • Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan, China
  • St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.
  • Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.
  • The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, N.Y.
  • The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio
  • UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital, Los Angeles, Calif.
  • University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif.
  • University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, Calif.
  • University of California, Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.
  • University of Chicago Medicine, Chicago, Ill.
  • University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, Colo.
  • University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich.
  • University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, N.C.
  • University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa.
  • University of Rochester, Rochester, N.Y.
  • University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C.
  • University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, Tenn.
  • University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas
  • University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah   
  • University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Va.
  • University of Washington, Seattle, Wash.
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wis.
  • Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.