Phoenix Children’s Hospital was selected to receive a $1 million, two-year grant to study new treatments for childhood cancer by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven and donor-centered charity dedicated to raising money for childhood cancer research.
This grant is part of the Pathway Directed Treatment for Refractory AML Consortium, a group of institutions across the country committed to finding ways to better treat acute myeloid leukemia (AML). If AML does not respond to chemotherapy after relapse, chances for survival are low, leading to poorer survival rates than other forms of childhood cancer.
The team, led by Dr. Robert Arceci, medical director of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Phoenix Children’s, has identified important changes in AML that can be exploited to develop more effective and less toxic treatments using new types of drugs. The consortium focuses on the pathways that are needed for leukemia survival and developing pathway-directed clinical trials to improve outcomes for this group of patients with no other treatment options.
“Our hope is to change the manner in which treatments are used and tested so that they target the complex changes that are responsible for driving the leukemia,” Dr. Arceci explains. “We will apply a computer-based learning approach to improve our understanding of why some forms of leukemia respond to treatments and others do not, thus leading to a continuous improvement of our ability to more effectively treat patients.”
Dr. Arceci also serves as co-director of the Ronald A. Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, a collaboration with Translational Genomics Institute and University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix dedicated to unlocking genetic codes and developing drug therapies in real time to improve the outcome for thousands of young patients diagnosed with cancer.
“These grants are one step toward filling the critical gap that exists between the research dollars spent per child with cancer and those spent per adult,” says Kathleen Ruddy, chief executive officer of the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which has committed a total of $22 million to cancer research this summer alone. “When one considers the total landscape of available funding from government, industry and philanthropy, it is apparent children are being left behind. Great progress has been made in treatments for many types of cancers that plague adults, but the same level of progress has been made in only a few forms of cancer in children. That needs to change.”