Retinoblastoma is an eye cancer that affects young children. While it is usually treatable and rare, it can lead to serious complications such as blindness, surgical removal of the eye, and metastasis to other areas of the body.
With Masonic support, Natalia Tretyakova, Ph.D., from the medicinal chemistry faculty, and Timothy Hallstrom, Ph.D., from the pediatrics faculty, are working to determine the epigenetic mechanisms behind normal retinal development and how they malfunction during the development of retinoblastoma.
They are especially interested in an epigenetic DNA base that is reduced in other cancers, but can stop cancer cell proliferation when restored to high levels. Researchers have not yet studied the role of this DNA base in pediatric retinoblastoma, but with support from Minnesota Masonic Charities, Tretyakova and Hallstrom were able to develop a novel mouse model with retinoblastoma in both eyes. They are now using this model to identify where the DNA base is reduced so that they can find potential anti-cancer targets.
Without Masonic support, this early-stage research may not have been possible.
"Receiving support from Minnesota Masonic Charities is lifeblood during times of difficult funding, which can be exacerbated during a pandemic. This support helps drive research at the earliest, sometimes most difficult stages, when seeking national funding may be premature."