Lab Research

Tackle Kids Cancer’s mission is to discover cures for pediatric cancer. This quest begins in the lab, where scientists and researchers can investigate at a cellular level the causes and treatments of various pediatric cancers. As part of the Hackensack Meridian Health network, Tackle Kids Cancer is unique in that many of our researchers are also physicians.

Their work, funded by Tackle Kids Cancer, takes place at Hackensack Meridian Health’s acclaimed Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI). With their breadth of experience and knowledge, our researchers and physicians have the opportunity to provide true bench to bedside research – where they can investigate causations and possible treatments in the lab, and develop a clinical usage for our patients in the hospital.

Tackle Kids Cancer Funded Labs

Located in Nutley, New Jersey, the CDI shares a campus with the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine at Seton Hall University. Its mission is to develop and translate innovations in biomedical sciences to improve clinical outcomes for cancer patients and others with life threatening, disabling and chronic diseases. Its vision is to transform today’s ideas into tomorrow’s new health care delivery. Currently, Tackle Kids Cancer is funding two labs at the CDI, The Zakrzewski Laboratory and The Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Laboratory.


The Zakrzewski Laboratory

The Zakrzewski Laboratory is investigating new immunotherapy treatments for pediatric cancer. The lab is directed by Johannes Zakrzewski, M.D., who is an Associate Member of the CDI and a Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Attending Physician at Hackensack University Medical Center. Additionally, he is board-certified in Pediatrics and Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

In April 2022, Dr. Zakrzewski received a new grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute to investigate ways to harness the body’s natural ability to create CAR (Chimeric antigen receptor) T cells for long-term treatment of pediatric blood cancers. The $2.78 million grant will run over five years, supporting the work of Dr. Zakrzewski. Read more about his work here.

In July 2023, Ashley Varkey D.O. joined the lab as a second-year Pediatric Hematology/Oncology clinical fellow. Her work is focused on the development of new immunotherapies for pediatric acute myeloid leukemia.

Neuro-Oncology Laboratory

The Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Laboratory is dedicated to meeting the clinical and research needs of children with rare central nervous system (CNS) tumors. The lab run by Derek Hanson, M.D., Program Head Pediatric Neuro-oncology, and Claire Carter, Ph.D., Assistant Member of the CDI.

The laboratory and program studies translational models of aggressive tumors in an effort to bring the findings to patients for access to early-stage trials of the newest and most-innovative brain tumor therapies. Together, Drs. Hanson, Carter and Vogel have initiated highly promising scientific studies at the CDI and with funding support from Tackle Kids Cancer, Josephine’s Garden, Tommy Strong Foundation and Katherine’s Fund.


This can’t be done without you

Tackle Kids Cancer is a team effort. By raising awareness and funds, we help hundreds of pediatric patients being treated today, and help fund discoveries to keep children healthy in the future.


Children with cancer need your help. Your donation will save lives.