Phoenix Children’s Hospital announced the creation of the Ronald A. Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine Tuesday, in a joint venture with The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and The University of Arizona’s College of Medicine.
The three organizations are joining forces with the hopes of unlocking genetic codes in child, adolescent and young adult cancer patients and develop drug therapies in real time to improve the outcome and treatment in these young demographics.
“Our goal is to bring genomics to the forefront of pediatrics,” said Robert L. Meyer, Phoenix Children’s president and CEO. “Research and development of novel treatments for pediatric diseases has fallen short over past decades.”
The reason why the Ronald A. Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine is focusing on young patients is because there have been hardly any new therapies introduced to this population in the past two decades. The new institute hopes that clinical studies on children will lead to a better understanding of specific differences between children and adults, which will hopefully lead to the development of safer, more effective and more age-appropriate drug treatments that can be provided in a faster amount of time.
“A challenge with existing molecular medicine programs is the amount of time it takes to develop a new drug or treatment,” Meyer said. “Our collaboration with TGen and University of Arizona opens the doors to making a portfolio of drugs and compounds available immediately.”
The institute will also focus their clinical studies based on underlying genetic and molecular functions of different pediatric cancers, rather than specifically on tumor type. Furthermore, physicians will then create various treatment plans specifically for each patient treated based on the drug therapy that will attack and correct the malfunctioning genes.
With the start of the new institute, a special team of physician scientists will be brought on board to help start out the genomic profiling: Dr. Timothy Triche, a pediatric pathologist and former director of the Center for Personalized Medicine at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles; Dr. Robert Arceci, a pediatric oncologist from Johns Hopkins University; and Dr. Daniel D. Von Hoff, a medical oncologist at TGen.
“We are trying to figure out a way to have children get appropriate drugs,” said Dr. Robert Arceci. “We all want to know what causes diseases and how we can treat them and I think it takes a special team of people to do this and it takes a lot of unselfish commitment.”
A founding member from whom the institute gets its name, Ronald A. Matricaria, a member of the board of directors for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, is excited and hopeful for what the new institute is capable of doing in the world of pediatric care.
“Based on my knowledge of the institute and many years of working in the medical field, I’m confident that we can chart a new course for addressing the unique needs of children with cancer and other life-threatening diseases,” Matricaria said. “We could have a huge impact on children’s live and what could be better than that.