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Frank M. Balis, MD

Interim Chief, Division of Oncology

Director of Clinical Research, Center for Childhood Cancer Research

Professor of Pediatrics, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

As director of Clinical Cancer Research for the Division of Oncology and interim chief of the Division of Oncology at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, I facilitate the clinical research of many outstanding and innovative investigators here at CHOP, and I oversee the Division’s substantial contributions to the national clinical research efforts of The Children’s Oncology Group and other smaller cooperative groups. We are striving to be the premier pediatric oncology clinical research program in the country.

My clinical research focuses on the development of new drugs and treatment strategies for childhood cancers and on studying the pharmacology of anticancer drugs in children in order to optimize their effectiveness and minimize their side effects. The dose and administration schedule of a drug, its effectiveness against childhood cancers, and the types and severity of side effects that can occur in children may not be predictable from the experience with the drug in adults. As a result, we test new drugs in children separately by evaluating side effects at varying dose levels, by measuring the response of the cancer, and by measuring the amount of drug in the body and its rate of elimination.

Anticancer drug development has been revolutionized by our increasing knowledge of the genetic and molecular defects in the various types of cancer that cause a cell to become cancerous. New classes of anticancer drugs specifically target these defects; and, as a result, they can more selectively block the growth of cancer cells and they hold the promise of being more effective and less toxic. The applicability of these new classes of drugs to childhood cancers and the need to develop new approaches to study these drugs in children with cancer are new challenges that our drug development program has the experience and expertise to address.

New drugs are initially used to treat cancers that have relapsed or not responded to conventional treatments, and they are usually only available through participation on a clinical trial. This allows us to learn whether the new drug is tolerable in children, define the best dose for children and assess whether it is effective for childhood cancers. Our clinical trials of new drugs are also designed to minimize the risk to patients receiving the new drug because the side effects and safe dose for children are usually not known and cannot always be accurately predicted from the experience with the use of the drug in adults. The commitment of our clinical research team and our patients and their families to learn as much as we can about the cancer and about new drugs and new treatment approaches while we provide optimal care aimed at controlling or curing the cancer advances our knowledge and leads to more safer and more effective treatments.

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