February 23, 2018

Pediatric Cancer Team Part of the Pediatric Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network

The pediatric cancer team at the UW Carbone Cancer Center and American Family Children's Hospital is pleased to make two big announcements that will help us to make progress in the fight against childhood cancer.

First, a grant we received in 2013, collaboratively supported by St. Baldrick's Foundation and The Stand Up To Cancer Foundation, that named us to an international, eight-institution "Pediatric Cancer Dream Tea" was renewed for four more years! This grant provides the funding to develop new therapies for high-risk childhood cancer and involves multiple members of our team to be involved with researching and improving outcomes in pediatric cancers.

Second, as part of the Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, we have become a part of the newly-formed Pediatric Clinical Immunotherapy Trials Network (PedsCITN).

The CITN was created using money that President Obama had Congress approve as part of the Beau Biden Moonshot Initiative. Its "blue ribbon pane" identified a list of 10 major areas to prioritize and Pediatric Cancer Immunotherapy was one of them.  This designation led to the development of PedsCITN. The Pediatric CITN is made up of eight chosen members, from institutions already involved with the Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, plus an additional two sites.

The mission of PedsCITN is to approve immune-based therapies for pediatric cancer patients more quickly than we are currently experiencing. We expect to accomplish this goal by collaboratively performing innovative experimental trials of new immunotherapy agents, new combinations of immunotherapy agents, and new ways of applying approved immunotherapy agents. Some approaches under consideration include novel treatments that have been the result of collaborative research from our Pediatric Cancer Dream Team (such as testing of CAR-T cells that recognize acute myeloid leukemia cells). Additionally, we will measure trial eligibility and outcomes through the use of lab tests that will more efficiently inform our understanding of clinical trial outcomes; for example, based on some research from our Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, recent data suggest children whose tumors have a higher number of mutations might respond to the approved new immunotherapy, nivolumab. Our PedsCITN will be testing this in a number of childhood cancers. Our participation in PedsCITN allows us to offer innovative therapies to our patients, through these clinical research studies, sooner.

With leadership expertise from UW-Madison and nine other institutions, and a primary focus on cancer immunotherapy, PedsCITN will prioritize immunotherapy drugs and treatments for testing in children with cancer. The most promising therapies identified through trials will be moved into final testing in partnership with the Children's Oncology Group (COG) or other large cooperative groups. PedsCITN will also develop and implement best practices for measuring and managing toxicities and patient outcomes associated with these new immune-based therapies.

Collectively, PedsCITN will be receiving $1.5 million per year to support the innovative collaborative immunotherapy clinical trials of pediatric cancer. At UW-Madison/AFCH, I am the principal investigator and Ken DeSantes, MD is co-principal investigator; all members of our UW Pediatric Hematology-Oncology-Bone Marrow Transplant team will be participating in these innovative trials that will be opened here at UW-Madison/AFCH.