In a lab in the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, Anthony El-Khoueiry, MD, director of the Phase 1 Drug Development Program at USC Norris, told a crowd of donors and scientists one simple fact: “With the right support, things can move very fast.”

In this instance, the right support is a $500,000 gift from the Moore for Kids Foundation, and the things that can move fast are the research efforts of Robert Ladner, PhD, assistant professor of pathology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. Ladner’s lab studies how and why the common chemotherapy agent fluoropyrimidine 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) fails in some patients undergoing treatment, and whether new therapeutic agents can stop that failure.

“We take the drug 5-FU, which we know fails in everybody eventually, and we study why it fails — the pathways that allow the cancer cells to circumvent it,” said Ladner at the dedication of his lab in honor of Moore for Kids, held on Feb. 7. “We identified a key resistance mechanism, an enzyme called dUTPase, and that’s what we’ve been trying to inhibit.”

Ladner told attendees he has dedicated much of his research career to this effort, and that it is only now that this hard work is beginning to pay off. “What we’ve achieved in the last 12 months has been more than we achieved in the previous 10 years,” he said.

Buffalo, N.Y.-based Moore for Kids, founded by philanthropists Kristi and Robert Moore, supports work to ease the suffering of children due to illness and adversity. Their recent gift to USC Norris is the first in their new program, the Torpedo Project, the aim of which is to raise awareness nationwide and fund research that can lead to breakthroughs in childhood cancer treatment.

“We see a lot of children struggling with cancer, and we see the work that these scientists are doing — it’s just something we’re meant to be part of,” said Robert Moore at a reception following the dedication of the Ladner lab. “We’re pleased that we could do this with USC and Dr. Ladner. We just can’t say enough about the work he’s doing. There are children we know who are fighting the good fight, but they need these scientists to do what they do, and we wanted to play our part. Our goal is to raise an additional $500,000 for USC Norris.”

Moore for Kids is a 501c(3) organization and dedicated to raising awareness for the goodness of giving, “as the Lord our God expects us to do, coloring the world with kindness.”

For more information on Moore for Kids and the Torpedo Project, please visit

— By Sara Reeve