Project information

What are the goals of the project and how are they being met?

The project’s primary goal is to identify drug candidates to control or cure certain types of childhood cancers. To meet this goal, the Smash Childhood Cancer research team is using World Community Grid to determine which of millions of chemical compounds may bind to certain target proteins or molecules involved with childhood cancers. These compounds would then be candidates for further testing and drug development, hopefully leading to treatments against these cancers.

To help achieve these goals, the research team plans to make the data from this project available to other scientists.

What kinds of childhood cancers will this project focus on?

The initial childhood cancers being addressed are: neuroblastoma (nerve cancer), brain tumors, Wilms' tumor (kidney tumor), germ cell tumors, hepatoblastoma (liver cancer), and osteosarcoma (bone cancer).

The project is focusing on these particular childhood cancers because the researchers have discovered target molecules related to these diseases. The molecular structures of these targets have already been determined through previous research, and scientists believe these targets can be used to control the cancer. The research team aims to find drug candidates which can disable or enhance the activity of these target molecules, in order to control or cure the cancer.

Some of these target molecules are also involved with a number of adult cancers (colorectal cancer, lung cancer, gastric cancer, pancreatic cancer, renal cancer, liver cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, prostate cancer and others) and may therefore help with treatments for those diseases, too. 

How common is childhood cancer?

Worldwide, approximately 300,000 children are diagnosed with cancer every year, according to World Child Cancer. In the United States, the American Childhood Cancer Organization reports that more children are killed by cancer than any other disease, with over 15,000 children being diagnosed each year.  Learn more

What current treatments are available for those types of cancers? What are the current survival rates?

A combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy (including proton beam cancer therapy), and immunotherapy is applied to treat the patients with pediatric solid tumors. The survival rates of neuroblastoma, hepatoblastoma, brain tumors, and osteosarcoma depend on the tumor stages; the prognosis for those in advanced stages are usually very poor. Among those cancers, the survival rates for children with high-risk neuroblastoma or brain tumors are particularly low.

How have treatment options and cure rates improved, or not, in the recent past? Why is this research important?

In general, the cure rates of pediatric cancers have largely improved; overall, the five-year survival rate has increased to approximately 80% for the last 50 years, due to progress in comprehensive therapies. However, the five-year survival rates for children with advanced stage tumors, metastatic cancer, and those with high-risk neuroblastoma and brain tumors are still very poor.

In the past 20 years, only a small number of new drugs designed to treat childhood cancer have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Half of all the chemotherapy treatments used for children with cancer have been in existence for 25 years or longer. (Learn more about these statistics at

Therefore, discovering new drugs to eventually substitute for radiation would be a very important advancement in the field of pediatric oncology.

How is this different from the team's previous project, Help Fight Childhood Cancer? Why is neuroblastoma being targeted again?

Help Fight Childhood Cancer, which ran on World Community Grid from 2009 to 2013,  found several potential new drugs candidates for neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer with poor prognosis when not diagnosed in the earliest stages. Further testing of these drug candidates continues.

The Smash Childhood Cancer project expands the scope to address not only neuroblastoma, but also additional pediatric solid tumors with poor outcomes.

The drug discovery targeting the TrkB protein, which was a neuroblastoma target during Help Fight Childhood Cancer, will be continued in this study. The research team will also study additional proteins which may be important in the development of cancer cells.