Team science award recognizes 8 pediatric cancer researchers at Stanford

The team, composed of researchers at nine academic institutions, has published more than 100 papers and treated nearly 1,000 children with cancer in early-phase clinical trials.

- By Erin Digitale

Crystal Mackall

Eight Stanford Medicine scientists are among a group of pediatric cancer researchers being honored with the 2021 Team Science Award from the American Association for Cancer Research.

The annual award recognizes the scientific team judged to be most accomplished in all facets of cancer research. It will be presented during the association’s annual meeting this spring.

The 2021 award honors a group known as the St. Baldrick’s Foundation-Stand Up 2 Cancer Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, composed of 74 scientists at nine academic institutions. The team conducts basic, translational and clinical research at the intersection of immunotherapy and cancer genomics for many types of childhood malignancies.

“We are very proud of the accomplishments of our team over the last eight years,” said Crystal Mackall, MD, professor of pediatrics and of medicine at Stanford School of Medicine. The team has conducted research to understand how cancer immunotherapies work, has studied how to reduce the treatments’ side effects and is investigating how to make cancer immunotherapy useful for patients with solid tumors, she said.

The team was founded in 2013 by Mackall, who holds the Ernest and Amelia Gallo Family Professorship, and John Maris, MD, pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. At the time, Mackall was chief of the pediatric oncology branch of the National Cancer Institute. She invited several Stanford scientists to join the team when she was hired at the university in 2016.

The association’s award announcement notes that the team has published 183 manuscripts, submitted 21 patent applications, created a new clinical trials network and generated more than $90 million in research funding. The group has also treated more than 950 children in early phase clinical trials, with many experiencing lasting and complete responses, the announcement says.

Other Stanford Medicine recipients of this year’s award are Jennifer Cochran, PhD, professor of bioengineering and Shriram Chair of the Department of Bioengineering; Kara Davis, DO, assistant professor of pediatrics; Sabine Heitzeneder, MD, instructor of cancer immunology and immunotherapy; Robbie Majzner, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics; Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, associate professor of neurology; Sneha Ramakrishna, MD, instructor of pediatric hematology and oncology; and Elena Sotillo-Piñeiro, PhD, senior research scientist.

Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania; the Hospital for Sick Children and the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto; the National Cancer Institute; Seattle Children’s Hospital and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston; British Columbia Children’s Hospital and British Columbia Cancer Agency in Vancouver; the University of Wisconsin; and the University of Colorado are also part of the team being honored.

Mackall honored with two other awards

Mackall is also receiving two major awards as an individual scientist this spring. At the association’s annual meeting, she will be honored with the American Association for Cancer Research-St. Baldrick’s Foundation Award for Outstanding Achievement in Pediatric Cancer Research, in recognition of her “pioneering contributions to the fields of pediatric oncology, immunology, and immunotherapeutics including [her] discovery of the role of IL-7 in T cell homeostasis, significant efforts to advance the use of CAR-T cell therapies, and for consistent and ongoing translational research dedicated to establishing novel treatments for pediatric cancer patients.”

From the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Mackall will receive the 2021 Pediatric Oncology Award and Lecture, given to an individual who has contributed “outstanding scientific work of major importance to the field of pediatric oncology.”

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit

2024 ISSUE 1

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