The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is tackling the need for new therapies to treat childhood cancers with the goal of helping young patients survive their cancer and thrive after treatment.
Typically, pediatric cancer patients are treated with the same toxic combinations of chemotherapies that were developed decades ago. Many die, and often those children who live have significant lifelong complications. In the past 40 years, only four oncology drugs have been approved for first-use in kids.
“The system is broken for development of drugs for children’s cancer,” says Gwen Nichols, M.D., chief medical officer at LLS.
She continues, “Although we’ve had quite a bit of success in pediatric cancer, there’s more we need to do. These are critical patients who need more attention.”
LLS is working to find safe and effective treatments that precisely target a patient’s cancer without harming the rest of the child’s body. They’ve launched the LLS Children’s Initiative, a $100 million multi-year effort that more than doubles their investment in pediatric cancer research grants, expands education and support services for children and families, advocates for the development of new treatments, and breaks down barriers to care.
“We need to be more specific and less toxic and we can’t do that with the current drug development paradigm,” she says. “This is important because the kids we’re talking about have 60 plus years of life left. We need to be sure they can get that life and that it’s a life of good quality.”
Treating pediatric leukemia has had a one-size-fits-all approach. But Nichols says that’s not working. Enter LLS PedAL (Pediatric Acute Leukemia), a groundbreaking global precision medicine clinical trial in acute pediatric leukemia.
The goal is for the program to have up to 200 clinical sites worldwide, including the United States. LLS PedAL will consolidate pediatric cancer data from multiple institutions, define and analyze the data, and make it available to researchers globally. The hope is for the trial to begin treating its first patient by later this year.
“We can all partner together to actualize this work to get drugs approved for the kids,” says Nichols, co-chair of LLS’s PedAL initiative. “The more we share, the better.”