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Alix E. Seif, MD, MPH

Attending physician
Assistant professor, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania

I am an attending physician in both the Blood and Marrow Transplantation and the Hematologic Malignancies sections. In addition to caring for patients, I am also interested in finding ways to stimulate the immune system to treat pediatric leukemias.

My research is in the development of a controlled method of immune stimulation that allows the body’s own immune defense system to recognize and kill leukemia cells. Some patients whose leukemia does not respond to chemotherapy go into remission following an infection. We certainly try hard to protect children from infection during cancer therapy; however, those children who develop infections and then go on to have spontaneous remissions are sending us an important message about how powerful the immune system can be in treating leukemia.

Immune stimulation may help children with chemotherapy-resistant leukemia and improve the effectiveness of current treatments without adding long-lasting toxicity. Furthermore, if we stimulate a child’s immune system to recognize leukemia, long-term immune memory may act like a vaccine, recognizing leukemia cells and preventing relapse for his or her lifespan. We are working with a national group to bring these treatments into clinical trials and continue to look for new ways to help the immune system fight leukemia.

While research is a very important and fulfilling part of my job, the reason I became a doctor is to help care for sick children. A cancer diagnosis turns a family’s world upside down and comes with a flood of new information that can feel overwhelming. I believe in open, honest communication with patients and parents, including being clear about when we don’t know the answers, what we can do to find out, and that we are here to support families through every step of the way. What I love most about working at CHOP are the interactions between patients, families, and staff – we work together to give our children the best possible care. We also have the tremendous privilege of working side-by-side with the world’s leaders in nearly every pediatric specialty.

I am fortunate to be a part of two wonderful subspecialty teams within Oncology. The Hematologic Malignancies (leukemia and lymphoma) and Transplant teams meet weekly to discuss every currently active patient to ensure that each child in our care has the benefit of many eyes, ears and minds. We are always thinking about ways we can improve patient care. CHOP is a very special place where state-of-the-art research meets comprehensive, family-centered patient care, and I’m proud to be a part of it.

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