Developmental therapeutics used to treat pediatric cancer

Dr. Joseph Pressey, director of developmental therapeutics for Children's of Alabama,says these innovative therapies are designed for children and young adults with cancer.

"We are using new agents that have been identified in the laboratory and making them available for children with cancer, especially cancers that are difficult to cure," says Pressey. "We can give them better therapies in the future if we can find therapies that are more tolerable and have less long term effects. We're hoping we can help all children with cancer."These therapies are done on a case-by-case basis.

Dr. Raymond Watts, director of pediatric oncology at UAB says developmental therapeutics can bridge a gap when it comes to curing cancer. "It's the ultimate of trying to develop individual treatments for individual patients," says Watts. "Some forms of cancer, leukemia for example, we may cure 90 percent of those children but that leaves 10 percent of children aren't cured, so we need to find a way to cure that 10 percent of an illness that we're pretty good at treating."Pressey sees two goals for developmental therapeutics.

"Number one, to make sure children respond well to the medicine, that they tolerate it well. But number two, to assess how it works in a particular cancer," says Pressey. "Ultimately if it works well it would be offered to all children with a particular type of cancer at diagnosis and not waiting for them to relapse or not have recurrent disease."Children's of Alabama is one of just 21 children's hospitals in North America where developmental therapeutics are used. It allows physicians to study new medicines as they become available for pediatric cancer. "We are identifying patients who have cancers that are very resistant to chemo-therapies that are available today and allowing them to go onto trials where they receive therapies with new agents that are very promising and cutting edge," says Pressey.For Watts, the mission is clear. "Our goal is to cure every child. To reach that goal, we're going to need ongoing investment and help from our community, and hard work over a number of years to individualize care and treatment for every child," says Watts.

The program is made up of a partnership between Children's of Alabama and UAB's division of pediatric hematology and oncology. Children come from across the state and southeast to take part in these therapies at Children's of Alabama.