During the last several decades, many drugs identified as beneficial in innovative therapy trials have been moved into frontline treatment for patients with various pediatric cancers. For many young patients with cancer and blood disorders, innovative therapy represents hope.
No Stone Unturned
"Innovative therapy with novel drugs is really for families who are not ready to give up, who want to make sure they’ve left no stone unturned,” says Howard Katzenstein, M.D., Director of Clinical Research and Innovative Therapy at the Aflac Cancer Center.
Innovative therapy focuses on the development of new treatments for patients with cancer or blood disorders. Most commonly, innovative therapy attempts to identify new drugs that can benefit patients with tumors that have failed to respond to standard treatment or tumors that have returned.
Innovative therapy trials also attempt to identify drugs that are:
- Safer to administer
- Less toxic to patients and cause fewer short-term and long-term side effects
- Easier to give to patients (e.g., replacing an I.V. drug with the same drug that can be given by mouth)
- More effective when given in combination compared to when given as a single drug
The hope is that the new combination or new ways of administering the medicine will lead to a better outcome in treating the disease.
Our goal at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is to provide every opportunity for a child to be cured of his disease. By promoting and conducting translational research that spans from bench to bedside, we strive to improve and enhance the quality of life for children and young adults with cancer and blood disorders.
Our specific aims include:
- Providing an open trial for every patient, so patients can be treated close to home, school, friends and family.
- Becoming an easily accessible referral center for patients outside of Atlanta who might otherwise not have access to Phase I and Phase II trials.
- Phase I trials represent the cutting edge of innovative cancer treatment. These trials provide additional treatment options for patients, who in the past, had no other options besides the standard protocol.
- The Innovative Therapy Program currently manages nearly 30 Phase I and Phase II clinical trials related to a number of different childhood cancers and blood disorders, including:
- Brain tumors
- Other solid tumors
- Sickle cell disease
- Moving ideas, suitable for clinical trials, from the lab and making them available to patients at the bedside.
Dr. Katzenstein and his colleagues currently manage about 13 Phase I trials and another 15 Phase II trials. The Aflac Cancer Center also treats adolescents and young adults (age 15 to 21), who can benefit from the pediatric protocols and access to clinical trials.
- Due to their age, adolescents and young adults are often treated at adult hospitals where they don’t have access to pediatric clinical trials.
- Outcome data has shown that many adolescents and young adults realize better outcomes from being on pediatric clinical trials versus adult clinical trials.
For patients, clinical trials represent hope. Dr. Katzenstein’s dream is to be able to offer a cancer treatment that will have fewer toxic effects and better outcomes, a treatment that will give realistic hope to more of his patients. With each new clinical trial, he feels a step closer to that day.
Read "Targeting the Best Treatments; Experimental Cancer Therapies Improve Chances of Survival"