While cancer research over the last two decades have made enormous strides forward, there is one area that has been falling behind: Children’s cancer treatment. To combat the dearth of new innovations in the field of children’s cancer, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) have been working with the American Association for Cancer Research to create a Dream Team in the field of pediatric cancer. Included in this new cancer-fighting powerhouse will be the Baylor College of Medicine’s Texas Children’s Cancer Center.
The ultimate intent of the Children’s Cancer Dream Team is to consolidate resources and share information among the best minds in the fight against pediatric cancer so that more treatments can be made available to medical personnel seeking to save the lives of children stricken with this murderous disease.
The first areas of focus for the Children’s Cancer Dream Team will be the use of Immunotherapy and Genomics, two fields that are making exciting new discoveries in cancer treatment.
“Genomics and immunotherapeutics are two cutting-edge approaches to improving treatments for our patients but we have not fully focused on tying them together until now,” said Dr. Will Parsons, BCM’s Dream Team leader and an assistant professor of pediatrics – oncology at BCM.
It is the binding of these two disciplines that will be the initial focus of the Children’s Cancer Dream Team. The hope is that by allowing those in both fields to work in tandem, they will be able to find synergistic solutions that eluded both areas when they were operating separately.
Genomics is the science of using DNA analysis to understand the underlying causes of cancer as well as the progression of the disease and metastatic properties of different forms of cancer.
Immunotherapy is the attempt to rouse the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, something it will not do naturally.
“The crosstalk and effective alignment of efforts from two highly productive fields of cancer research, genomics and immunology, should lead to major discoveries,” said Dr. Nabil Ahmed, assistant professor of pediatrics at BCM. “Merging immunotherapy and genomics into an Immunogenomics Dream Team is a novel but also very pragmatic move. It’s about synergy and about delivery of science to the clinic.”
The Dream Team will begin with thorough genetic analysis of tissue samples to make core determinations regarding the cellular structure of the cancerous cells. They will then begin devising immunologic treatments that will allow the children’s bodies to fight off the abnormal, cancerous cells, while leaving healthy cells intact.
Besides Baylor College of Medicine’s Texas Children’s Cancer Center, the other members of the Dream Team include: The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, the University of British Columbia, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Seattle Children’s Hospital, the University of Wisconsin, and the National Cancer Institute.
This new collaborative effort will begin on June 1st. It will bring a total of $14.5 million to cancer research, with $3.3 million earmarked for BCM.