The Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Research Program (MCCCRP) has had an exciting year. Every investigator on this team of experts, as diverse as pediatric oncology itself, is making huge strides in their respective fields.
In the area of personalized molecular characterization, Dr. Chris Maxwell and the Better Responses through Avatomics Evidence (BRAvE) team is leading Canada in testing a new pediatric cancer-specific genetic test, and garnering national attention for their work. The 1:1 innovation program has been successful in propelling unique research forward including: Dr. Philipp Lange in harnessing proteins in controlling cancer; Dr. James Lim in controlling cancer cells by manipulating their microenvironment; Dr. Chris Maxwell in targeting the unique characteristics of cancer cell division; Dr. Gregor Reid in understanding why leukemia develops in children; and in Dr Schultz’s area of focus, making safer and improved hematopoietic stem cell transplants.
We also welcome two new scientists who joined us in 2018, Dr. Jacob Rozmus who is focusing on using hematopoietic stem cell transplant to assist children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases and Dr. Amanda Li who is leading the clinical trials of novel immune therapies such as chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR T) cell therapy.
Significant and impactful work is being done in the Developmental Therapeutics Program and CAR T-cell therapy. Dr. Rebecca Deyell continues to grow the clinical trials program by leaps and bounds, including five new studies with more on the way and offering expanded treatment options to more children. We are delighted by the relationship we have developed with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the CureWorks network, bringing CAR T-cell therapy to BC kids with hard-to-treat cancers.
We thank all who give generously to the Michael Cuccione Foundation. Your support helps enable the important research that is instrumental in improving the lives of children with cancer. Thank you for your incredible commitment to BC’s kids.
Dr. Kirk R. Schultz
Director, Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Research Program
Cellular immune therapies, where scientists can isolate a patient’s own immune cells and modify them in the lab to teach them to do a specific task such as killing cancer cells, have shown immense promise in the treatment of childhood cancers, particularly with certain types of leukemia.
Through the MCCCRP commitment, we are excited to confirm that BC Children’s Hospital is now able to enroll eligible patients for the PLAT 05 CAR T-cell therapy. Having access to this trial here means CAR T-cell therapy can now be an option for children with hard to treat cancers in BC. It is an incredible opportunity that may help to delay or eliminate the need for some children to have a bone marrow transplant, and the intense chemotherapy that goes along with it. The fact that out of country travel is not longer needed increases the number of kids who may benefit from this treatment, and it opens the door for future trials in other types of childhood cancers that may help even more kids in BC.
Cancer is a vastly complex disease and not all cancers are the same; therefore, there is an urgent need for a personalized medicine approach. Personalized medicine clinical trials around the world are showing that nearly all tumours have mutations. About two out of every three tumours contain mutations that may be specifically targeted with a new therapy. Unfortunately, only about eight per cent of patients are currently receiving these new molecule-targeted treatments. This is a critical current roadblock for the adoption of personalized medicine.
The BRAvE Initiative aims to tackle this roadblock by fundamentally changing the application of precision medicine approaches. The BRAvE team is extending the personalized medicine window by initiating studies earlier, when the disease is first diagnosed, and using the remission phase to prepare for a possible relapse—hoping, of course, that one does not occur but preparing for one all the same.
The BRAvE Team has far to go to achieve its ultimate goal, but many significant milestones have been met, including some incredible strides over the past year.