The phase 1 trial, which was recently authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is based on the same science that has shown tremendous progress in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia in patients who have relapsed one or more times. Seattle Children’s is one of the first institutions to treat a pediatric solid tumor cancer using cellular immunotherapy, a technology that uses a patient’s own immune system to identify and destroy cancer cells.
“Solid tumor cancers are especially challenging to treat because the tumors create their own environment that prevents the immune system from responding,” said Dr. Julie Park, an oncologist at Seattle Children’s and lead investigator for the new trial, known as Engineered Neuroblastoma Cellular Immunotherapy (ENCIT)-01. “But we have encouraging research suggesting cellular immunotherapy can be used to safely treat neuroblastoma.”
Under the leadership of Dr. Mike Jensen, director of Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, Seattle Children’s has been a leader in the development of cellular immunotherapy for treatment of pediatric cancers. Jensen began one of the studies using immunotherapy to treat children and young adults with recurring acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012. At least six of the patients from those research studies are now cancer free.
“We are very excited to begin studying this new immunotherapy for treatment of patients with neuroblastoma,” said Park, who is also an investigator in Seattle Children’s Research Institute’s Center for Clinical and Translational Research. “There are many children in need of innovative therapies like this. Seattle Children’s is dedicated to developing this therapy to its safest and most effective iteration.”
Participants in the ENCIT-01 trial will be children or adolescents with neuroblastoma who responded poorly to standard treatments of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Clinicians will collect blood from each trial participant and deliver it to a Ben Towne Center where immune system T cells will be isolated and reprogrammed to target neuroblastoma cancer cells. The engineered cells will then be infused back into the patient, where researchers expect they will find and destroy cancer cells.
Patients may be referred to this trial from treatment centers around the world; all who are accepted for the trial will be treated at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
“These children typically have less than a 10 percent chance of surviving,” Park said. “We want to offer them and their families hope.”
About Seattle Children’s
Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Seattle Children’s has been delivering superior patient care while advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation.