Researchers at Children’s continue to make strides, share optimism

The mission of The Rory David Deutsch Foundation is to eradicate pediatric brain tumors and other devastating childhood diseases as well as to make a difference in the lives of afflicted children and their families. The Foundation’s determination in achieving this bold mission is perhaps best reflected in its enduring partnership with Children’s Memorial Hospital. Under the direction of Stewart Goldman, M.D., the Gus Foundation Chair of Neuro-Oncology; Medical Director, Neuro-Oncology; and Director of Clinical Trial Center at Children’s; researchers at Children’s have relied on funding from The Foundation to investigate new and promising methods to treat children battling brain stem gliomas. Having increased its increments of payment to $200,000 per year, The Foundation is now in the fourth of its five-year, $1,000,000 commitment to Children’s.

Combining The Foundation’s pledge with other avenues of support, the dedicated team of researchers at Children’s has pursued advancements in pediatric cancer treatment on multiple fronts. The team has tested a novel regimen that combines the drug Thalidomide with standard radiation and carboplatin chemotherapy in an effort to kill cancer cells and increase glioma survival rates. It has attempted to manipulate protein pathways in an effort to make even the most aggressive tumors more responsive to much less toxic therapies. In examining existing drug treatments, the team has tested an intravenous version of the drug Busulfan. In lower doses, this drug is already being used effectively in oral form to treat certain kinds of cancer, in lower doses to determine whether bone marrow damage can be avoided without reducing the drug’s positive affects.

These and many other steps forward, including the progress of a new interstitial program at Children’s, continue to fuel the objectives and optimism of these expert researchers. In its study of interstitial therapy, a fully trained nurse working in the lab is able to implant a luciferase gene—the gene that makes a firefly glow—into the tumor cells of an animal. With the use of a specialized machine, the cell in the animal is illuminated, allowing researchers to watch the tumor grow in real time. “This is a study we’re very excited about, and the equipment we rely on is made possible by The Rory David Deutsch Foundation,” says Dr. Goldman. “Rather than having to sacrifice the animal, we’re able to observe the tumor as it progresses. This can help us determine how and where to treat a progressing tumor in a child.”

As Dr. Goldman points out, however, significant progress in the fight against pediatric cancer ultimately depends on a collective approach that stretches well beyond the walls of one institution. With that philosophy in mind, Children’s Memorial proudly hosted the thirteenth International Symposium on Pediatric Neuro-Oncology (ISPNO), held June 29 to July 2. This meeting welcomes oncologists, neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, neurologists, nurses, basic researchers, neuro-pathologists, neuro-radiologists, endocrinologists, psychologists, social workers, research associates, and other health care providers involved in the care of children with central nervous system tumors. “This gathering of physicians, surgeons, nurses and researchers from around the world provided a great opportunity for interaction and exchange of information, and it was a thrilling opportunity for Children’s Memorial to showcase the excellence of our neuro-oncology program,” said Dr. Goldman. “I firmly believe that it is only through collaborative efforts like this that we will some day find a cure for pediatric cancer. The experts who attended ISPNO represented a broad spectrum of specialties, and the gathering encouraged great discussion on current trends, treatment, management and care of children battling central nervous system tumors. I am energized and inspired by the next phase of growth and development in neuro-oncology here at Children’s.”

Backed by an international spirit of partnership, and the passionate support of organizations like The Rory David Deutsch Foundation, Dr. Goldman and the team he leads continues to inspire hope that this shared mission is one that will indeed be achieved.

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