OHSU Knight Cancer Institute

Childhood Cancer Research Program

A brother and sister hug on a couch in the living room.
Our research helps patients like Dario Villaseñor Valdivia (left) survive cancer.

Unlocking tomorrow’s cures today

Our mission at the Childhood Cancer Research Program is to better understand fundamental questions about cancer that strikes children. What is this disease? What drives its growth? What shuts it down? Why do some treatments work well for some kids but not others?

We want to diagnose cancer earlier, identify promising therapeutic candidates and develop better treatment strategies, so that more children with cancer survive and thrive.

As a joint project of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and the OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, we bring outstanding expertise, experience and tools to this task, backed by the resources of a major academic medical center.

Major research projects

We focus on four principal areas in pediatric oncology:

  • Brain tumors: Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor in children. OHSU researchers discovered that medulloblastoma, traditionally considered one disease, is four distinct conditions. We’re using precision oncology to identify therapeutic targets for tumors that don’t respond to standard chemotherapy. We’re also pursuing projects on glioblastoma, glioma and spinal cord tumors.
  • Leukemia and lymphoma: Together these conditions are the most common childhood cancers. In 2022, OHSU researchers examined data from more than 800 patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and concluded that expression of the PEAR1 gene is a strong indicator of patient survival. We have multiple projects in this area.
  • Neuroblastoma: This is the third most common cancer in children. We are focused on understanding how it develops, and on finding new and better ways to treat it.
  • Sarcoma: We are pursuing several projects centered on sarcoma, including Ewing Sarcoma, germ cell tumors, osteosarcoma and rhabdomyosarcoma. We are conducting a clinical trial to investigate a combination of targeted therapy and immunotherapy in refractory or recurrent osteosarcoma.


Our research teams include:

  • Chang Research Lab: Targeted therapies hold the promise of attacking cancer cells and reducing side effects. We investigate samples from patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML) to identify signaling pathways that could become potential targets.
  • Davare Lab: The mission of the Davare laboratory is to identify vulnerabilities in pediatric brain tumors and sarcoma. Our ultimate goal is developing tailored therapies that target these childhood cancers. We also do research on lung cancer and adult sarcoma to find new drugs to treat these challenging cancers in children and young people.
  • Davis Lab: We focus on new therapeutic approaches for aggressive sarcomas.
  • Yoon-Jae Cho, M.D., runs the Cho Lab, where his team researches new ways to treat childhood brain tumors and other neurologic conditions.
  • Stephen Roberts, M.D., runs the Roberts lab. His research is focused on understanding the development of neuroblastoma and finding better ways to treat it.

Clinical trials

We are recruiting patients for more than 50 clinical trials on childhood cancer.

Contact us

We’re eager to work with new partners and collaborators. Contact:

Stephen Roberts, M.D.
Head of Pediatric Hematology Oncology Division
Associate director for Pediatric Oncology

Join our team

We’re looking for smart, driven researchers to join our mission. See our job openings.

Support the Knight Cancer Institute

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