International Trial for Innovative Cancer Therapy Hosted at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

ATLANTA – The Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has been named a host institution for an international clinical trial analyzing the safety and effectiveness of an investigational cellular therapy treatment for children fighting cancer. The research is part of a collaborative international study sponsored by Novartis.

For decades, traditional treatments for cancer have included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. But for those who have not responded to treatment through these methods, the international study offers a new investigational immunotherapy treatment that relies on a patient’s own immune system to potentially defeat cancer.

“We are optimistic about the potential of this therapy,” said Cynthia Wetmore, MD, Director of Developmental Therapeutics at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. “This is the next step in pediatric cancer research, and Children’s is playing a vital role in getting this to the kids who need it most.”

The process involves reprogramming a patient’s immune cells to recognize and attack cancer cells. The new CTL019 cells are created by removing the patients’ own T-cells and reprogramming them to target specific proteins on cancer cells. Millions of such CTL019 cells are grown before re-infusing them into the patient, where the cells aim to seek out and destroy the cancer.

This approach, referred to as chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR T) technology, has yielded promising results in early stage trials, especially with pediatric patients with relapsed/refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who had no other known curative treatment options. However, side effects, such as cytokine release syndrome, need to be carefully managed. 

“Most of the patients in the study are therapy resistant and have no other traditional methods left to help them,” Dr. Wetmore said. “Immunotherapy is an exciting new investigational frontier in cancer treatment that is giving hope to many people.”



For more information:

Allyson Wright

Public Relations, Manager


About The Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s

The Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is a national leader among childhood cancer, hematology, and blood and marrow transplant programs, serving children and young adults. Recognized as one of the top childhood cancer centers in the country by U.S. News & World Report, the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center cares for more than 500 newly diagnosed cancer patients and treats nearly 2,000 unique sickle cell disease patients each year. Our program offers patients access to more than 380 clinical trials, including 28 innovative Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center investigator-initiated trials. Visit for more information.

About Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

As the only freestanding pediatric healthcare system in Georgia, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is the trusted leader in caring for kids. The not-for-profit organization’s mission is to make kids better today and healthier tomorrow through more than 60 pediatric specialties and programs, top healthcare professionals, and leading research and technology. Children’s is one of the largest pediatric clinical care providers in the country, managing more than one million patient visits annually at three hospitals, Marcus Autism Center, the Center for Advanced Pediatrics, urgent care centers and neighborhood locations. Consistently ranked among the top children’s hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has impacted the lives of kids in Georgia, across the United States and around the world for more than 100 years thanks to generous support from the community.

* Required fields