By LLS Staff |
We caught up with Gwen Nichols, MD, Chief Medical Officer at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), to share the progress we’re making to bring cures and better care to children with blood cancer through The LLS Children’s Initiative.
Tell us about The LLS Children’s Initiative and why it’s so important to you and LLS.
When I joined LLS in the spring of 2017, I knew my first order of business would be advancing our work for pediatric blood cancers. As a physician and researcher, I had seen first-hand the limitations of current therapies and the devastating long-term effects of treatment experienced by childhood cancer survivors. I could not stand by any longer. Together with our community of volunteers, patients, families, researchers, and partners, we realized it would take unprecedented collaboration – and our signature grit – to transform pediatric blood cancer treatment and care. Last year, we launched The LLS Children’s Initiative, a $100 million, multi-year endeavor to take on childhood blood cancer from every direction, including research, education and support, and advocacy. Our goal is to help children not only survive their cancer but thrive in their lives after treatment. With the pandemic impacting patients’ access to treatment, it’s more important than ever to put patients and families at the center of their care. That’s exactly what LLS is doing.
As a longtime champion of precision medicine and breakthrough research, how is LLS working to bring the promise of precision medicine to pediatric blood cancer patients?
Children have been treated with a one-size-fits-all approach for too long, despite cancer behaving differently in children than in adults. For many childhood cancers, chemotherapies developed decades ago remain the standard of care and simply don’t work well enough. In this era of precision medicine – giving the right treatment to the right patient at the right time – it’s critical for children to receive new therapies designed just for them. At the heart of The LLS Children’s Initiative is LLS PedAL, the first global precision medicine clinical trial for pediatric acute leukemia. LLS PedAL will test multiple novel therapies simultaneously at more than 200 clinical sites worldwide to bring safer, more effective treatments to children and young adults with relapsed acute leukemia. Through LLS PedAL, we will identify and validate underlying molecular drivers of disease and match patients with the most promising treatments based on their unique tumor biology. Ultimately, every child who enters the trial will receive screening to determine their specific biological markers.
When will the LLS PedAL trial open, and what progress has been made so far?
We anticipate opening LLS PedAL by summer 2021. Until then, we’re pressing forward. Thankfully, we have brilliant physicians, scientists, volunteers, patient organizations, partners, and pharma/biotech companies in our corner. Earlier this summer, LLS and The Children’s Oncology Group, a national clinical trials network supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) with more than 9,000 clinical experts in childhood cancer at top children’s hospitals and institutions, joined forces. Approximately 200 COG sites across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand will now be eligible to participate in LLS PedAL. We’re also collaborating with researchers and regulators in the U.K. and EU. By tapping into established infrastructures, we’ll be able to bring better treatments to children with relapsed acute leukemia rather than requiring families to travel to hospitals far from home. What’s more, we’ve partnered with PRA Health Sciences to help us manage the trial. We’re also in discussions with several pharma companies. And we’re working closely with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on the trial protocol. All of these milestones are powered by a shared drive to cure pediatric blood cancers.Read More