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Children’s Mercy Among Those at the Forefront of Historic Pediatric Cancer Treatment

Dr. Doug Myers

By The University of Kansas Cancer Center

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is generally a highly treatable and curable form of cancer. The five-year survival rate for children with the most common form of ALL has increased over time and reached about 90 percent. However, some children do not respond as well to the standard course of therapy for ALL or their leukemia returns, making their cancer significantly more difficult to effectively treat.

A new treatment approach was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in August 2017 targeting this group of children who have what is called refractory or relapsed ALL – meaning their cancer either did not respond well to initial therapy or they experienced a relapse of their leukemia. The groundbreaking treatment uses chimeric antigen receptor technology (also called CAR-T) to re-engineer a patient’s own T cells to target CD19 proteins on the surface of cancer cells.

Children’s Mercy has a long and proud history in the development of CAR-T therapies for children and young adults, having supported the early development of the technology used in the innovative treatment. The hospital’s experience dates back to 2010 when it was one of only a few institutions with open clinical trials of CAR technology.

Those Children’s Mercy trials were led by Doug Myers, MD, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist who serves as the hospital’s section chief of Bone Marrow Transplantation. Dr. Myers is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and serves as a clinical associate professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. Dr. Myers was also one of the few physicians on the steering committee of the trial that led to the approval of KYMRIAH.

The experience of Dr. Myers and Children’s Mercy in the early development of CAR technology made the hospital among the ideal sites for a multi-site trial of what became a dramatic and revolutionary treatment for cancer. Children’s Mercy entered into an agreement with Novartis to participate in the company’s KYMRIAH trial, and the commercial Novartis treatment available at the hospital was the first FDA-approved CAR treatment for cancer anywhere.

Though he is hesitant to call it a “cure” per se, Dr. Myers says the CAR-T therapy “has provided prolonged remission in clinical trials for a large number of patients who had no other option. There are few other options that would provide this potential for long-term remission.”


Read the full article via Cancer History Project