The St. Baldrick's Foundation in Monrovia, California, has announced an $8 million grant to advance the work of the Stand Up To Cancer-St. Baldrick's Foundation Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, with the eight institutions comprising the pediatric consortium each providing an additional $1 million, boosting the total commitment to $16 million.
Launched in 2013, the research consortium consists of more than a hundred and fifty researchers at eight institutions working to improve and expand immunotherapy in childhood cancers, with an emphasis on applying insights from the field of genomics to identify therapeutic targets and develop new drugs. To date, the consortium's achievements include the development of CD19 chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy for B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, contributing substantively to the FDA approvals of two "living drugs" for leukemia patients; major advances in determining why childhood cancers evade the immune system before or after immunotherapies; and the development of a way to manage complications of immunotherapy, such as Cytokine Release Syndrome. The consortium also has launched more than two dozen clinical trials that have enrolled over seven hundred patients, with sustained remissions in the majority of the relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia patients and early signs of effectiveness in solid cancer therapies, including brain tumors.
With the funding, the consortium will focus on childhood cancers that have been intractable to current therapies and will seek to launch new clinical trials for life-threatening conditions. Over the next four years, the consortium also will work to advance preclinical work accomplished over the first four years of the effort to the early clinical trial stage, with funding contingent on continued success.
"The Dream Team has been at the forefront of genomic discovery and testing new treatment options to give kids with cancer the best chance at survival with [fewer] long-term effects," said St. Baldrick's Foundation CEO Kathleen Ruddy. "Progress made by the Dream Team, especially in blood cancers, is already extraordinary, and we are excited to see them making headway also in solid tumors, to give hope to many more childhood cancer patients. As the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants, St. Baldrick's is dedicated to supporting the best childhood cancer research, no matter where it is happening."