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Speak Up: More Clinical Research Sites Needed for Pediatric Oncology

Oesterheld, Javier E. MD

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000390571.54996.0e

As a physician who specializes in pediatric oncology, the most encouraging aspect of the work to me is the steady, long-term improvement in survival rates for kids. From cure rates on average of only 10 percent in the 1950s, we can now anticipate success rates of 75 to 80 percent with many of our pediatric oncology cases today. This progress is nothing short of remarkable.

One of the most important reasons for this improvement has been the dedicated work of researchers at pediatric oncology clinical trial sites all around the country and throughout the international community. Through the dedicated work of these physicians, nurses, and staff, along with the amazing resilience of children and families, many new therapies have resulted. At the same time, the base of knowledge related to cancer in children has grown tremendously, enabling us to provide treatment that is more effective and care that is more compassionate.

But, as is true in many areas of research, we need to do more. Funding for pediatric cancer research continues to lag behind that of research with adults. Not only is additional funding needed, but we need additional regional research sites that can provide access to clinical trials that are closer to families and children. Closer access translates into less strain on families from travel and dislocation from support networks, which we know play essential roles in care for children.

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$5.7 Million from New Coalition of 8 Philanthropic Entities

In this context, the physicians and staff at Levine Children's Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, were thrilled earlier this year to receive $5.7 million from a newly formed coalition of eight philanthropic entities. These agencies share a firm determination to enhance clinical trial opportunities for children requiring cancer treatment.

The funds provided by this coalition are allowing us to expand the research staff and facilities in support of Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials for kids at Levine Children's Hospital. Our primary focus is on leukemia, lymphoma, neuroblastoma, brain tumors, kidney cancer, and other bone and soft tissue tumors. We anticipate a total of 15 Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials occurring at our hospital this year.



The coalition responsible for this funding—the Carolinas Kids Cancer Research Coalition—includes some of our region's premier nonprofit groups dedicated to fund raising, education, and awareness related to pediatric cancer. Founding members are The Leon Levine Foundation, The Alex Hemby Foundation, The Adam Faulk Tanksley Foundation, The Baby J Ladley Fund, Quail Hollow Championship, drumSTRONG™, 24 Hours of Booty, and Brett's Ride for Rhabdo.

In addition to expansion of our Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical staff and facilities, we are also looking forward to the completion of a new Ronald McDonald House currently under construction near our hospital in Charlotte. This facility will further enhance our family-focused care and expand our ability to make clinical trials more accessible to families throughout the Carolinas region.

The expansion of pediatric clinical trials is an ideal next step for Levine Children's Hospital, which opened at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte in 2007. As one of the fastest growing programs at Levine, our Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Center includes eight board-certified physicians offering surgical, chemotherapy and radiologic procedures while also managing clinical trials.

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We are actively participating in more than 60 clinical trials through the Children's Oncology Group, a collaborative initiative including patients, researchers, and hospitals throughout the world. More recently, we joined two widely recognized consortia dedicated to fighting childhood cancer—Therapeutic Advances in Childhood Leukemia and Lymphoma (TACL) and the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium (NMTRC).

Working with children with cancer is one of the most rewarding fields in oncology today. Our patients and their families demonstrate incredible courage, inspiring our physicians, nurses, and staff to work harder to find new and better ways to battle the cancers that threaten their lives.

The expansion of our Phase 1 and Phase 2 trials is giving our patients new treatment options closer to home. We encourage the health care community to rally around similar regional research efforts all around the country to make the latest treatment options more readily available, increase our nation's therapeutic arsenal, and offer new hope to children and their families.

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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