Lurie’s Quarterly Impact Update – September 2017
Thank you for your support to accelerate discovery of new oncology therapies for young people treated at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Your dedication has been essential as we fully implement our Precision Medicine initiative, including the pending hire of a research technician to expedite research and support the talent and resources we have brought to Lurie Children’s over the last few months.
Lurie Children’s launched its Precision Medicine Initiative in early 2017—an imperative to bring the necessary talent and resources together if we are to find the best therapies that will be most effective against the unique characteristics of each child’s cancer. In recent months, we have made considerable progress in this initiative:
• Our oncology team, together with researchers at our Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute, are now using an individual’s genetic sequencing and other advanced technologies to analyze biological data, and identify disease biomarkers and potential drug targets. Most tumors arise following mutations in critical genes that lead to uncontrolled cellular growth. In some patients, identifying these genes may aid in tumor diagnosis and define the most appropriate therapy. Other tumors may acquire additional mutations during or following therapy that result in relapse. These examples are just the beginning of what we are now understanding through Precision Medicine. Extensive research is required to identify additional genes that mutate and guide us to target those pathways.
• Our Precision Medicine initiative has also introduced a comprehensive biobanking policy for collecting tissues that are crucial for research, implemented a Predisposition Clinic for patients and families, and recruited critical personnel, including a genetics counselor and a clinical research professional.
As a testament to the growing strength of our research and clinical care, two new globally acclaimed physician-scientists have joined our team. They will provide critical value by developing orthotopic xenograft models (PDX). These orthotopic models are made by taking tumor tissues from patients and implanting them into the anatomic locations in mice reflective of the child’s tumor, where they are tested with specific drugs to determine the best course of therapy. This method is difficult to conduct, but produces the most accurate recreation of how tumors in children will respond to drugs.
• Oren Becher, MD, recently came from Duke University School of Medicine and has established his laboratory. Dr. Becher has extensive experience developing models of pediatric brain tumors, particularly Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma. These models enable us to study genes and mutations that influence cancer development and evaluate novel therapies that could translate into new clinical trials for children. His work will also be informed by the range of clinical trials available at Lurie Children’s and the multi-institution trials we participate in.
• Xiao-Nan Li, MD, PhD, will join our program from Baylor University Texas Children’s Hospital in January 2018. His team will develop animal models in all pediatric cancers, not only at diagnosis, but also at recurrence and at the time of death. Dr. Li’s team includes Research Assistant Professor Xingding Zhang, PhD, who joined our faculty in late spring to establish Dr. Li’s lab and transfer cell lines and breeding colonies from Baylor to Lurie Children’s to begin drug screening of molecular-targeted agents.
Your funding will bring a vital link to our oncology team by allowing these transformational initiatives and world-class investigators to speed up research and ultimately bring better therapies to children sooner. I look forward to updating you on our progress as we continue our search for a research technician with the right skill set to partner with these scientists.