Four academic children's hospitals have joined forces to create a research collaborative that will make it easier for their patients to access immunotherapy clinical trials and for their researchers to find good candidates for therapies.
Led by Seattle Children's, the new initiative called CureWorks will allow member hospitals to participate in clinical trials and share data and collective expertise with the goal of accelerating progress in developing novel cell therapies
Children's National Health System in Washington, D.C., Children's Hospital Los Angeles and BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, are among the founding members.
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CureWorks will both facilitate the production of immunotherapy treatments and streamline the clinical trial enrollment and coordination process for member hospitals, officials said.
"We believe a unified effort among leading children's hospitals is the best way to drive the discovery of new therapies for pediatric cancer," said Mike Jensen, M.D., executive director of CureWorks and director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children's Research Institute in a statement. "Our hope is that through this collaboration, we'll be able to more quickly develop treatments with fewer side effects, better readmission rates and, ultimately, enable more kids with cancer to grow up and realize their full potential.".
Member hospitals will have the option to participate in clinical trials offered through CureWorks. Once trials are open at a member hospital site, immune cells will be collected from the patient and sent to a Seattle Children's facility where T-cells, or immune cells, will be reprogrammed to express the chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR protein, which artificially generates T-cells targeted to markers found on cancer cells to fight cancer..
The newly engineered cells will be shipped back to the patient's healthcare team for infusion. Officials said the cells will help more quickly create immunotherapy treatments and clinical trial enrollment and coordination.
"CAR T-cell therapy has been called the single greatest therapeutic advance in childhood leukemia in a generation," said Alan Wayne, M.D., director of the Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases and Children's Hospital Los Angeles in a statement. "We expect to speed the development of this important new therapy to provide more effective treatment for children and young adults afflicted with many types of cancer in the U.S. and around the globe."
Hospitals will also have a central database to list their own open clinical trials and assist in enrollment across multiple clinical sites. Seattle Children's listed the open clinical trials in its pipeline on the website including for immunotherapy candidates in treating leukemia and solid tumors as well as brain tumors and specifically, neuroblastoma. Other member hospitals are expected to do the same.