Last week, in the pages of the medical journal Cancer Cell, St. Baldrick’s researchers announced a discovery that could radically transform treatment for kids with neuroblastoma – a new immunotherapy drug candidate that harnesses the immune system to fight cancer.
Neuroblastoma is a cancer that begins in the nerve tissue outside the brain, usually in a child’s abdomen. It strikes very young children, up to about age 7, and is the most common cancer diagnosed in infants. Only about 50% of patients survive the high-risk form of neuroblastoma.
All of this makes this new targeted immunotherapy for neuroblastoma especially good news, but it gets even better.
The same discovery has the potential to benefit children with other deadly cancers, as well.
In general, the goal of immunotherapy is to find a “target” – something that the cancer cell has, but healthy cells do not – and then to develop a drug or biological agent that spurs the patients’ own immune system to attack that target, while leaving healthy cells alone.
Chemotherapy and radiation can kill cancer cells, but they also slaughter everything in their wake, and these toxic effects are especially hard on young, developing bodies.
Researchers at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who are part of the Stand Up to Cancer – St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, have found a protein, called GPC2, that appears on neuroblastoma cells and not on healthy cells. Not only that – this same protein is also necessary for neuroblastoma cells to grow.
Dream Team members at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) then developed an immunotherapy weapon to hit that target.
And so far, in tests in the laboratory, it’s working.
With our support and the continued work of the Dream Team, this new therapy can move from the laboratory to the bedsides of kids with cancer who need it – saving lives.
“The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, in collaboration with Stand up to Cancer, provided the critical funding to make this research happen,” said Dr. John Maris, a pediatric oncologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and leader of the Stand Up to Cancer – St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer Dream Team. “This work is a testament to the importance of philanthropic funding of novel childhood cancer research.”
It is proof that when we work together, amazing progress is possible – that together, we can take childhood back from cancer.
You make progress like this possible. Fund childhood cancer research today and give kids with the cancer hope.
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