$25 million gift from Dr. Gale and Dr. Ira Drukier enables a prize in children’s health research awarded to Dr. Sumit Gupta at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) & to Dr. Carola Vinuesa of the Francis Crick Institute

Dr. Sumit Gupta, a physician-scientist whose research focuses on vulnerable subpopulations of children with cancer, has been awarded the eighth annual Gale and Ira Drukier Prize in Children’s Health Research, Weill Cornell Medicine announced today.

The Drukier Prize honors an early-career pediatrician whose research promises to make significant contributions toward improving the health of children and adolescents. Dr. Gupta is an associate professor in the Department of Paediatrics, Faculty of Medicine and the Institute for Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, both at the University of Toronto, and associate scientist and head of the Section of Leukemia and Lymphoma at the Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Ontario. He is being recognized for his research using health data to answer important clinical and health policy questions affecting children living with cancer locally and globally.

Dr. Gupta’s most recent research includes studying the late effects of cancer therapy in adolescents and young adults, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, and designing and evaluating a program for the early identification of childhood cancers in Kenya and Cameroon, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

Dr. Gupta received his award, which carries an unrestricted honorarium, and gave a presentation of his most recent work at a ceremony on Feb. 13. Dr. Carola Vinuesa, a renowned immunologist and investigator from the Francis Crick Institute in London, England, delivered the Gale and Ira Drukier Lecture in Children’s Health, which highlights research and discoveries that have contributed to significant advances in children’s health.

The Drukier Prize and Lecture were established as part of a $25 million gift to Weill Cornell Medicine from Dr. Gale Drukier and Weill Cornell Medicine Board of Fellows member Ira Drukier in December 2014. The gift created the Gale and Ira Drukier Institute for Children’s Health—a premier, cross-disciplinary institute dedicated to accelerating research into the underlying causes of devastating childhood diseases.

“Dr. Gupta is an exceptional physician-scientist who demonstrates a deep commitment to improving outcomes for children with cancer through innovative research,” said  Dr. Robert A. Harrington, the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medicine and provost for medical affairs of Cornell University. “We thank the Drukiers for establishing this prestigious award and their continuing support in this important area of medicine and are delighted to recognize Dr. Gupta with this year’s prize.”

“It is our distinct pleasure to highlight outstanding physicians and scientists like Dr. Gupta, who are devoted to advancing children’s health,” said Dr. Gale Drukier and Board of Fellows Member Dr. Ira Drukier. “Dr. Gupta’s work to address some of the challenges faced by pediatric cancer patients provides hope to those children and their families, and he has a bright future ahead in children’s health research.”

“Dr. Gupta’s research using health data shines a light on the care of pediatric patients with life-threatening cancers, both at home and abroad,” said Dr. Virginia Pascual, the Drukier Director of the Gale and Ira Drukier Institute for Children’s Health and the Ronay Menschel Professor of Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine. “His work has great potential for improving access to treatment, outcomes and quality of life for many of these young people and the Drukier Institute is pleased to honor his tireless efforts in advancing these goals.”

In his research, Dr. Gupta analyzes health care data to answer important questions on issues facing children with cancer. For example, he led an investigation of the impact of discontinuing an essential chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), called asparaginase, by analyzing clinical trial data from North America, Australia and New Zealand. At the time, the drug was often discontinued due to allergic reactions, yet an alternative drug was frequently unavailable because of supply issues. The study revealed children who received the alternative drug achieved similar outcomes compared with those who received the standard treatment. However, survival rates were lower for those who did not receive all doses of either drug. The finding led to changes in treatment strategies and further advocacy to strengthen supply chain policies.

Dr. Gupta’s global health research showed that treating childhood cancer in Ghana was cost-effective. The insight gave local advocates essential evidence that led the Ghana Ministry of Health to cover childhood cancer under the country’s universal health care insurance program, improving access to lifesaving treatments for more young patients.

Dr. Gupta’s work also discovered survivors of childhood, adolescent and young adult cancers in Ontario did not have an increased risk of infections or severe complications from COVID-19, providing essential guidance for risk counseling and lessening anxiety experienced by patients and their families during the pandemic.

“Winning the Drukier Prize from Weill Cornell Medicine is a huge honor,” Dr. Gupta said. “It’s also a lovely opportunity to highlight the incredible advances in childhood cancer research, both locally and globally, and recognize how much work still lies ahead.”

Dr. Gupta received a medical degree in 2005 from the University of Toronto and a Ph.D. in clinical epidemiology in 2014. After completing a pediatric residency and a subspecialty residency in pediatric hematology/oncology at SickKids and his doctorate, he was appointed as a staff oncologist in the Division of Hematology/Oncology in 2010-2011 and was appointed head of the Section of Leukemia and Lymphoma in 2023. He was also awarded the Garron Family Chair in Childhood Cancer Research at SickKids in 2023.

Dr. Gupta is a member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the American Society of Hematology. He serves on several committees, including as vice chair of the ALL Committee of the Children’s Oncology Group, and a working group lead of the National Cancer Institute’s National Childhood Cancer Registry Initiative.

Dr. Gupta has received notable awards, such as the Canadian Cancer Society William E. Rawls Prize in 2022, recognizing his contributions as an early career investigator, and the Alvin Zipurski Award from the Department of Paediatrics at SickKids for his exemplary mentorship and development of initiatives in the fellowship program.

Dr. Vinuesa is a Royal Society Wolfson Fellow and assistant research director and principal group leader of the Francis Crick Institute. Her research has significantly advanced the understandings of the immune system and identified novel genes driving the development and progression of autoimmune diseases, such as lupus.

In 2023, she was awarded the Lupus Insight Prize from the Lupus Research Alliance and the Johann Anton Merck Award from Merck KGaA, for her discovery that rare gene variants in the viral RNA sensor TLR7 cause lupus in some patients. Her discovery provided essential insights into lupus disease mechanisms and has provided a rationale for the use of novel treatments targeting TLR7 in lupus.

Through her genetic research, Dr. Vinuesa also recently helped free an Australian woman who was wrongfully convicted of smothering her children. After sequencing the woman’s and children’s genomes, Dr. Vinuesa discovered that two of the children inherited a novel gene variant in the gene CALM2 from their mother that can cause cardiac arrest and sudden death, proving the woman was not responsible for their deaths. She was released in June 2023 after serving 20 years in prison, and was recently exonerated.

Dr. Vinuesa received a medical degree from the University Autonoma of Madrid, undertook specialist medical training in England, and was awarded a Ph.D. degree in immunology from the University of Birmingham, London. Following her postdoctoral training in immunogenetics at the Australian National University, she advanced from group leader to professor to department head. From 2014 to 2021, she directed the Australian-based Centre for Personalised immunology, a National Health and Medical Research Council Centre of Research Excellence. She has been elected a fellow of the Australian Academy of Science (FAA), fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (FAHMS), fellow of the Academy of Medical Science (FMedSci) and fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).

Weill Cornell Medicine is committed to excellence in patient care, scientific discovery and the education of future physicians in New York City and around the world. The doctors and scientists of Weill Cornell Medicine—faculty from Weill Cornell Medical College, Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, and Weill Cornell Physician Organization—are engaged in world-class clinical care and cutting-edge research that connect patients to the latest treatment innovations and prevention strategies. Located in the heart of the Upper East Side’s scientific corridor, Weill Cornell Medicine’s powerful network of collaborators extends to its parent university Cornell University; to Qatar, where Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar offers a Cornell University medical degree; and to programs in Tanzania, Haiti, Brazil, Austria and Turkey.

Weill Cornell Medicine faculty provide exemplary patient care at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester Behavioral Health Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Queens and NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. Weill Cornell Medicine is also affiliated with Houston Methodist.

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), affiliated with the University of Toronto, is Canada’s most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children’s health in the country.

With passionate and dedicated staff, Toronto’s SickKids is much more than a hospital. They work each day to provide the best in child and family-centred care, create ground-breaking clinical and scientific advancements, and train the next generation of experts in child health.

SickKids operates on the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat and Petun First Nations, the Seneca, and most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit River. They are committed to working toward new relationships that include First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, and are grateful for the opportunity to share this land in caring for children and their families.

SickKids is committed to being a safe space for all of its patients and families, staff, learners and volunteers, where everyone can feel seen, heard and valued as part of equity, diversity and inclusion efforts.

SickKids is a founding member of Kids Health Alliance, a network of partners committed to advancing excellence and expertise in pediatric care delivery in Ontario, Canada.

Photo: Dr. Sumit Gupta, Dr. Gale Drukier, Dr. Ira Drukier and Dr. Carola Vinuesa


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