James Amatruda, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, and Molecular Biology at UT Southwestern, has been named holder of the Nearburg Family Professorship in Pediatric Oncology Research.  His laboratory uses a combination of human genomics and zebrafish genetic models to develop better understanding of and new treatment options for children’s cancers, including Ewing’s sarcoma, a childhood bone cancer.

Spurred by their son Rett’s personal battle with the disease, Charles and Dana Nearburg, have donated more than $2.5 million to UT Southwestern to support pediatric oncology research.  Half of the gift has been used to endow the Nearburg Family Center for Basic Research in Pediatric Oncology and the Nearburg Family Professorship in Pediatric Oncology Research.  The remaining funds support current research by UT Southwestern faculty members on Ewing’s sarcoma, the disease that Rett courageously battled until he passed away in 2005.

“Our family knows firsthand how vitally important private philanthropy is to pediatric cancer research. We want to do all we can to spur public awareness and draw attention to the fact that children are suffering, because research dollars are so often spread too thin for aggressive, long-term investigation,” said Charles Nearburg.

Such generosity has significantly benefited Dr. Amatruda’s research on Ewing’s sarcoma and furthered his work with an innovative zebrafish genetic system to understand how the Ewing’s Sarcoma protein EWS-FLI1 turns a normal cell into a cancer cell.

“It is a privilege to work for these children and their families,” Dr. Amatruda said. “They constantly inspire us to come back to the lab and work harder for a cure.”  Dr. Amatruda’s ultimate goal is to reach the point where raising money for research is no longer necessary, because a cure for Ewing’s sarcoma will have been found.

Dr. Amatruda is a graduate of Harvard College and has been a UT Southwestern faculty member since 2005.  He earned both medical and doctoral degrees from Washington University School of Medicine before residency and fellowship training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Children’s Hospital of Boston.