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Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: 2020 Immunotherapy Research Updates

September 24, 2020

Children have so much to teach us. CRI CLIP Investigator Vinodh Pillai, M.D., Ph.D., of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is studying levels of CD19 in the context of CAR T cell therapy for children with B cell leukemia. Cytokine storm is a common side effect of CAR T cell therapy treatment—and a common complication in severe cases of COVID-19. Dr. Pillai is extending his CRI-funded study into this area to yield further insights into managing cytokine storm in patients with pediatric cancer and COVID-19.

This September for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, let's look at how we’re working toward a future immune to childhood cancer. 

Childhood Cancer Survivor Story

Emily Whitehead, 8 years cancer-free. Courtesy of the Emily Whitehead FoundationAt only six-years-old, Emily Whitehead was facing a life-threatening recurrence of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood cancer. After 16 months of chemotherapy treatments, her parents were told that that the cancer had relapsed and that she would not survive. Determined to save their child's life, Tom and Kari Whitehead enrolled their daughter in a clinical trial of a new immunotherapy treatment designed to turn her immune system into a powerful weapon against cancer. Today, Emily is over eight years cancer-free. (Photo courtesy of the Emily Whitehead Foundation)

Read Emily's Childhood Cancer Story

Whitehead Family Words

Praying for Emily book coverDiscover the incredible true story of Emily Whitehead, the first child to receive CAR T cell therapy for leukemia, in the words of the Whitehead family. In Praying for Emily: The Faith, Science, and Miracles that Saved Our Daughter, the Whiteheads share their story, recounting the belief, resilience, and support that got them through the most difficult time of their lives. Follow the treatments, research, and decision-making that ultimately saved Emily. The book will be published on October 6, 2020, by Hachette Book Group and is available for pre-order now.

Learn more about Praying for Emily

Childhood Cancer Scientist Spotlight

Beiyun Liu, Ph.D.Every day, billions of cells in our body die, sometimes in ways that don’t alert the immune system. It’s one way that cancer can hide. CRI Fellow Beiyun C. Liu, Ph.D., at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is exploring if converting tumor cell death from a silent to immune-stimulating form may be able to unleash immune responses against cancer.

Learn about Dr. Liu's cancer research

Support Childhood Cancer Research

Vinodh Pillai, MD PhDCRI CLIP Investigator Dr. Vinodh Pillai recently published a study in Blood Advances that demonstrated the effectiveness of CAR T cell therapy for patients with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) that expresses low levels of the target CD19 protein after prior treatment with bispecific antibody immunotherapy (specifically, a drug called blinatumomab). This information will help guide clinicians’ treatment strategies and protocols for patients, especially given prior treatment history. This Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, support lifesaving cancer immunotherapy research.

DONATE to pediatric cancer research

Childhood Cancer Treatment Update

At the CRI Immunotherapy Patient Summit in Boston last year, Susanne Baumeister, M.D., a pediatric oncologist at Boston Children's Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, discussed developing cell-based treatments for pediatric blood cancers.

We also spoke with Dr. Baumeister last September about changes in the field of pediatric hematology

Ask Your Immunotherapy Questions

CRI Virtual Immunotherapy Patient Summit

Join us at the inaugural CRI Virtual Immunotherapy Patient Summit on October 2-3. This free event connects you with cancer patients and immunotherapy experts, all from the comfort and safety of your own home.

REGISTER for the Virtual Summit

Find a Pediatric Cancer Clinical Trial

stethoscope over united statesA variety of new and promising cancer immunotherapy treatments are only available to patients in clinical trials. Our Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder will match you to trials for which you may be eligible, and you can help speed the development of potentially lifesaving drugs for yourself and others.

FIND A cancer clinical TRIAL

Immunotherapy for Childhood Cancer Information Updated

Childhood CancerOn June 16, 2020, the U.S. FDA approved pembrolizumab (Keytruda), a PD-1 checkpoint inhibitor, to treat adult and pediatric patients whose advanced solid cancers have a high tumor mutational burden (TMB-H) and have proven resistant to available treatments. This is the second biomarker-based indication regardless of cancer type to receive FDA approval. Discover what’s new in pediatric cancer.

VIEW Immunotherapy for Childhood Cancer UPDATE

Growing Up with Cancer

In 2006, Chris and Denise learned their two-year-old son, Cole, had acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In 2018, he was one of the first pediatric patients at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Boston Children’s Hospital to receive CAR T cell therapy. We spoke to Cole and Denise about a childhood in and out of hospitals, exploring treatment options, advocating for immunotherapy, and sharing their story.

READ INTERVIEW WITH COLE AND DENISE

Photo by Karl Fredrickson on Unsplash

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