Changing the Face of Cancer Care

January 1, 2013

Drug development effort holds promise for children with cancer 

Innovations in Pediatrics - Winter 2013 - View Full PDF

Robin Norris, MD, MS, MPH

Medical Director of the Sickle Cell Anemia Center at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Over the next five years, UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital will establish a nationally significant Phase i clinical trials program focused on childhood, adolescent and young adult cancers.

Robin Norris, MD, MS, MPH, Director of the Pediatric Developmental Therapeutics Program in the Division of Pediatric Hematology and oncology at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, is developing a UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital-based collaborative effort focused solely on the development and testing of more effective drugs for children with cancer. This effort will make UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital the only Northeast Ohio center providing these services for children with relapsed or refractory cancers.

Dr. Norris came to UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she trained in pediatric hematology/oncology, pediatric clinical pharmacology and translational research.

On Strong Footing

UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital works closely with the adult therapeutics developmental program at UH Seidman Cancer Center, part of the National Cancer institute-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at the School of Medicine.

“As the primary pediatric affiliate of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University, we leverage the significant expertise and strength of this center’s excellence in drug development,” Dr. Norris says. “We plan to work closely with our colleagues at UH Seidman Cancer Center to increase eligibility of some of their trials to our adolescent population. We also plan to develop trials through partnership with industry and by participation in smaller, multi-institutional studies.”

Dr. Norris says there is a need to provide collaborative drug development and testing for pediatric patients in Northeast Ohio. To that end, she was recruited to UH to expand services through the Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer institute at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital, a major referral center for children, adolescents and young adults with cancer and nonmalignant blood disorders. The institute is one of the only programs in the nation that will offer dedicated inpatient and outpatient facilities and services for adolescents and young adults. integrated with UH Seidman Cancer Center, the institute will ensure patients have access to the most advanced therapies first. With a special focus on changing the face of cancer care and outcomes for an age group with very specific needs, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital’s pediatric hematologists and oncologists serve as senior investigators on National institutes of Health-funded clinical trials and are members of national committees on solid tumors, leukemia and bone marrow transplantation.

Toward Better, Safer Treatments

in the short-term, Dr. Norris’ goal is to create more options for children with relapsed or refractory cancer living in Northeast Ohio through expansion of a portfolio of Phase i clinical trials. As a member of the Therapeutic Advances in Childhood Leukemia & Lymphoma (TACL) consortium, UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital soon will open new trials to pediatric patients with relapsed or refractory leukemia and lymphoma. it also will offer Phase i trials for pediatric patients with relapsed solid tumors.

The capacity to increase the number of Phase i studies available to pediatric, adolescent and young adult patients offers hope to those patients and their families and is an important step in UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital’s effort to become a significant player in the early phase development of new drugs for children with cancer, Dr. Norris says.

“We’ve made great strides in our approach to treating children with cancer; however, we must continually push to find more effective therapies to improve outcomes for patients with aggressive, metastatic cancers and to overcome the significant toxicity associated with conventional chemotherapy agents commonly used today,” she adds.

“The only way to move forward is to develop better drugs with fewer side effects and to participate in that scientific endeavor of finding better drugs for kids with cancer. it is our intent to work collaboratively with the hospitals in our region to create better and safer treatment options for the patients we serve.”

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