In March the Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute (cc-TDI) announced its partnership with Team KOODAC (Knock Out Oncogenic Drivers and Curing Childhood Cancer), a global interdisciplinary team of researchers, in which cc-TDI will receive up to $2.5 million over 5 years to develop novel protein degrader therapeutics to target previously undruggable drivers of children’s cancer primarily for rhabdomyosarcoma and secondarily for Ewing sarcoma. Today, we share the story behind the award and the lengths to which a father, inspired through love, has been instrumental in pushing cc-TDI’s research mission forward.

Todd Georgopapadakos faced the unthinkable when his son Xander was diagnosed in 2015 with an aggressive soft tissue sarcoma, initially believed to be undifferentiated epithelioid and pleomorphic sarcoma. For years they tried everything available, but nothing worked. “I was introduced to Dr. Charles Keller, and the team at cc-TDI, at the recommendation of someone when my son’s treatment wasn’t working,” Todd explains. “They stepped in when no-one else could or would – bringing rigor to the diagnostic process and discovered through both traditional and genetic profiling, that my son had been misdiagnosed by three of the largest and leading institutions.”

Heartbreakingly, Xander’s diagnosis of CIC-DUX4 fusion-rearranged sarcoma (CRS), was just a few months before he passed and confirmed that for years he was treated with the wrong protocols. cc-TDI’s analysis was featured in the 2020 publication Undifferentiated small round cell sarcoma in a young man: a case support, and highlights the diagnostic and treatment challenges faced by underserved CIC sarcomas. 

Todd’s love for his son has inspired him to improve outcomes for other children and families. In doing so, he has been integral in helping further cc-TDI’s strategic partnerships. “I introduced Charles to my dear friend Arthur Sands at Nurix. Arthur continues to work on innovative approaches to combating cancer and I saw that cc-TDI’s approach of discovering the target in a disease by genetic profiling to find the massively over expressed genes was the right one and could work well with Nurix’s targeted approach. I knew Nurix had precision weapons and cc-TDI could provide the target. I am thrilled to see that this partnership is delivering a promising solution. Unfortunately, my son was not able to be saved, but we are hopeful that so many other children and adults will be.”

“Todd’s ability to bring meaningful collaboration and critical partnerships has fundamentally paved the way for cc-TDI’s work as part of the global Team KOODAC,” explains Dr. Keller. “Our team of biologists and engineers uses computation and machine learning to accelerate drug discovery for children with cancer. Working in conjunction with other innovative leaders such as Nurix, makes us uniquely positioned to tackle this challenge.  It is a privilege to work with such a cutting-edge biopharma as Nurix.  Their Team is amazingly talented and compassionate.  I don’t think, though, that we would have ended up on their radar without the advocacy of Todd and Arthur’s kindness to honor Xander.”

Over the next five years, Team KOODAC is poised to receive up to $25 Million to create new treatments for incurable solid tumors in children as part of the Cancer Grand Challenges. Thank you to members of Team KOOAC Yaël Mossé and John Maris (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), Martin Eilers (Theodor-Boveri Institute), Olivier Delattre (Curie Institute), Alessio Ciulli (University of Dundee), Seychelle Vos (MIT), William Weiss (UCSF), Georg Winter (Austrian Academy of Sciences), Sanford Simon (Rockefeller Institute) and Gwenn Hansen (Nurix Therapeutics).  cc-TDI especially thanks Todd for sharing his story in hopes of improving outcomes for other children like Xander. Our work continues in his honor and memory.

Share this post
Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin