Punch Pizza’s Impact on Childhood Cancer Research

Punch Pizza has partnered with CCRF since 2009 and contributed over $252,000. These funds directly support some of the most promising minds in childhood cancer research. We want to say thank you and share progress updates on the important work of the researchers who have been supported by the Spirit of Punch Award.  

2018: Dr. Branden Moriarity

Branden Moriarity, PhD, University of Minnesota

Since Punch Pizza funded Dr. Branden Moriarity in 2018, his lab has been working on studying how to treat enzymopathies, disturbances or failures of specific enzyme functions, with engineered human B cells. His lab has published three separate research pieces on the culture, expansion and genome engineering of these human B cells, which helped him secure a $1.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Most recently, and directly in line with the entrepreneurial spirit of the Punch Pizza Researcher Award, Dr. Moriarity has co-founded a B cell company called Bespoke Biotherapeutics, LLC, with the goal of using B cells to treat cancer and other genetic diseases. 

None of these advancements would have been possible without the initial investment from Punch Pizza. 

2019: Dr. Angela Mortari  

Dr. Mortari's work using 3D printing could lead to more effective treatments for graft-versus-host disease.

The Spirit of Punch awardsupported Dr. Mortari’s lab in developing a process to create human lymph nodes using 3D bioprinting and tissue engineering. This is important in treating graft-vs-host disease (GVHD), a condition where the body’s immune system perceives donor cells as foreign and attacks them. Today, researchers studying GVHD rely on 2D cell cultures or animal models that do not accurately recreate the microenvironment of human tissues, including lymph nodes. 

As an important step in bioprinting lymph nodes for cancer research, Dr. Mortari’s team first needed to be able to sustain human lymphocytes in hydrogels. They collaborated with colleagues in biomedical engineering at the University of Minnesota to develop the parameters for doing so. Their successful work has led to a published article in the Journal of Immunology and Regenerative Medicine, and it has been of great interest to those who work in the fields of tissue engineering, transplantation, immunology and infectious disease. 
Dr. Mortari’s lab will continue to refine the processes for sustaining human lymphocytes, which helps lead to more accurate and relevant environments for scientists to test new drug and cell therapies that will successfully treat GVHD. 

2021: Dr. Peter Gordon 

Peter Gordon, MD, PhD is taking aim at relapsed childhood leukemia.

In 2021, Punch Pizza adds Dr. Peter Gordon to their list of recipients of the Spirit of Punch Awardees. Dr. Gordon specializes in the area of childhood leukemia, the most common form of cancer in children. When leukemia recurs, it often recurs in the central nervous system. Dr. Gordon's lab has developed the unique ability to study the interaction between leukemia cells and the cells of the central nervous system.  He has discovered that this interaction may protect the cancer cells, allowing them to survive or become resistant to treatment.  Focusing on ways to overcome this protection/resistance, Dr. Gordon's lab is leading the way in developing treatments for childhood leukemia.  

Partner with us and engage your employees

As a partner of Children’s Cancer Research Fund, you’re helping raise awareness of childhood cancer and funding the research that will deliver better, safer cancer treatments to kids who deserve them. We can help you create a partnership that is unique to your company, complete with employee engagement opportunities that help unite your teams around our cause.

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