The Hamilton Eye Institute at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center is among 21 institutions in the country, and the only one in Tennessee, where the St. Baldrick’s Foundation has awarded a $5,000 grant toward a summer fellow. UTHSC PhD student Zachary Keith Goldsmith has been named a 2017 St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellow.
“My goal, just like that of St. Baldrick’s, is to provide a cure for children afflicted with cancer so that they may lead longer and healthier lives,” Goldsmith said.
The St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellowship will allow recipients to receive mentorship and learn about ocular pediatric oncology. Goldsmith initially heard about the St. Baldrick’s Summer Fellowship from his mentor, Vanessa Morales-Tirado, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Ophthalmology. Her research has focused on understanding the immunology of the eye in certain ocular diseases such as glaucoma, retinoblastoma and ocular melanoma. Goldsmith received his first research position at the Hamilton Eye Institute in 2011, when he was working on his undergraduate degree in microbiology from Kansas State University.
Goldsmith, a student in the UTHSC College of Graduate Health Sciences, will focus his research project on retinoblastoma, a cancer that begins in the retina of the eye. Located in the back of the eye, retinoblastoma is the most common eye cancer found in children. If found at a late stage, the cancer can spread throughout the body to the brain, lymph nodes, and other organs, including the liver.
“My project will be investigating how a targeted signaling pathway could help retinoblastoma patients not only survive, but keep their eye and maintain vision,” Goldsmith said. “My goal is to provide a safer alternative to current doses of chemotherapy.”
Founded in 1999, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation exists to conquer childhood cancer by working with leading pediatric oncologists and funding cancer research for children. The foundation provides funds to hospitals for high-impact clinical trials, researchers and young investigators, and supportive care research.