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Sanford Health awarded $1.8 million to study brain tumors

Researcher Haotian Zhao to examine how childhood tumors form

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A Sanford Health researcher has been awarded a $1.8 million grant over the next five years to look for new ways to treat childhood brain tumors.

Researcher Haotian Zhao, Ph.D., studies brain cancers in children.

Malignant choroid plexus tumors are poorly understood and can be deadly. The grant, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will be used to investigate how the molecular circuit of these tumors interact with signaling pathways as tumors are formed.

Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are the current treatments to target these tumors. The study will look for other, less debilitating therapies, such as using molecular targeted therapies instead.

“My hope is to better understand how these tumors form and how best to target them,” Zhao said. “The current treatments often aren’t successful, and when they are, they still have devastating side effects.”

The choroid plexus lines the ventricles of the brain and produces cerebrospinal fluid, which bathes and cushions the brain. This group of tumors, which are caused by production of too many choroid plexus cells, comprises about 15 percent of all brain tumors diagnosed in children in the first year of life, according to the American Brain Tumor Association. In the past 30 years, little improvement has been made in the prognosis or treatment of these tumors.

Zhao is an assistant scientist with the Pediatric and Rare Diseases Group and assistant professor at of pediatrics at the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota. 

This research is supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R01CA220551. The content is solely the responsibility of the researcher and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

About Sanford Health
Sanford Health is an integrated health system headquartered in the Dakotas. It is one of the largest health systems in the nation with 45 hospitals and nearly 300 clinics in nine states and four countries. Sanford Health’s 28,000 employees, including more than 1,300 physicians, make it the largest employer in the Dakotas. Nearly $1 billion in gifts from philanthropist Denny Sanford have allowed for several initiatives, including global children's clinics, genomic medicine and specialized centers researching cures for type 1 diabetes, breast cancer and other diseases. For more information, visit

Jacqueline Palfy
Sanford Health Media Relations
605-366-2432 /