2009 Research Highlights
Patients in the Children’s Cancer Hospital at MD Anderson Cancer Center have access to new therapies often before they are available at other hospitals. This is in part due to the discoveries made within the Children’s Cancer Hospital laboratories and collaborations with adult oncologists at MD Anderson.
In 2009, pediatric oncologists and researchers at the Children’s Cancer Hospital earned recognition for their discoveries that are aiding the fight against childhood cancer. For a full report of the research progress made in last year, visit the 2009 Research Summary.
Most children diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia are cured of their cancer. As a result, leukemia researchers at the Children’s Cancer Hospital are focusing their labs on improving survival for high-risk patients, such as those who have relapsed or refractory leukemia or rarer types of leukemia. Their studies have found potential ways to predict prognosis, better treat leukemia using certain drug combinations, and possibly decrease cardiotoxicities from therapy.
The brain tumor team at the Children’s Cancer Hospital has been successful in improving survival for high-grade glioma patients as well as patients with rare brain tumors, such as choroid plexus tumors. In the laboratory, they are studying more targeted therapies and have discovered a way to cross the blood-brain barrier and deliver more therapy to the brain tumor.
Two pre-clinical studies were recognized at the American Society of Pediatric Hematology Oncology’s Annual Meeting that showed how using various therapies on neuroblastoma have decreased tumor growth. Based on previous pre-clinical studies, the Children’s Cancer Hospital is the first in the world to open a Phase 1 clinical trial to test a new therapy combination on children with multiple-relapsed neuroblastoma.
Bone Tumors and Other Solid Tumors
A major milestone was reached in 2009 with the European Commission approval of an immune-based therapy, MEPACT — a drug developed and studied in children with osteosarcoma at the Children’s Cancer Hospital. In addition, pediatric oncologists were recognized for their novel aerosol therapy used to treat lung metastases, a surgical innovation for abdominal tumors, and a new multidisciplinary program for cardiac tumors. The Children’s Cancer Hospital also led the way in developing a multi-institutional retinoblastoma center that brings the area’s best experts together to collaborate on how to further the treatment of this rare eye cancer.
As pediatric oncologists and researchers are seeking less toxic, more efficient ways to fight cancer, they are turning to immunotherapy. The Children’s Cancer Hospital is part of the world’s largest cell therapy program. Recent research has shown how investigators are using immune cells, such as natural killer cells and T cells, to target cancer cells. In addition, they have found a way to improve engraftment of cord blood transplants.
The Children’s Cancer Hospital has one of the only pediatric practices in the nation that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of children with endocrine tumors. Specialists within the team were recognized in 2009 for their research centering around treating papillary thyroid cancer and advanced Von Hippel-Lindau disease.
With a strong growing research program, patients and families at the Children’s Cancer Hospital will continue to benefit from the latest developments in the pipeline for childhood cancer. For more research news, visit the “News and Events” section of the Children’s Cancer Hospital website.