The first ever pediatric “Dream Team” dedicated to creating new treatments for the most challenging childhood cancers will be led by the director of the Center for Childhood Cancer Research at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, John Maris, MD. The Dream Team will receive $14.5 million in funding over four years, provided by Stand Up To Cancer and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Crystal L. Mackall, MD, chief of the Pediatric Oncology Branch of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), is co-leader alongside John Maris, MD.
The Dream Team investigators represent seven institutions from across the United States and Canada, and are supported by important patient advocates who spread the word about the importance of funding for childhood cancer research.
Combining genomics and immunotherapy to increase cure rates
Members of the Dream Team include world-renowned pediatric cancer researchers and clinicians from two disciplines: genomics, the study of genes and their functions; and immunotherapeutics, treatments that use the body’s own immune system to fight disease.
Compared to adult cancers, genetic mutations that could inform research and the development of new treatment options are rare in pediatric cancers. This suggests that pediatric oncology research must move beyond traditional methods of identifying treatments in order to substantially improve outcomes for children with cancer, which have not improved in the last 20 years.
Immunotherapeutics targeting cell surface molecules have shown impressive results in pediatric clinical trials, supporting the idea that immunotherapeutics is an important strategy against childhood cancers.
Genomics and immunotherapeutics are both highly productive fields of pediatric cancer translational investigation, but for the most part, they have evolved separately from one another. The Stand Up To Cancer-St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer Dream Team will change this by forming a collaborative group of scientists from both fields for the first time.