Childhood Cancer 2016
Childhood Cancer 2016: Conference review
Prof Persis Amrolia - Great Ormond Street Hopsital for Children, London, UK
Today was part of a meeting sponsored by Children With Cancer about how we can improve the outcomes for children with cancer. At the moment the results with acute leukaemias, other forms of childhood cancer, are very good compared to adult cancer but there remain a proportion of patients who are completely refractory to existing therapies. So we have to think about new ways of targeting the disease in those patients and today’s meeting was about harnessing the power of the immune system to try and treat otherwise untreatable cancers in children.
Were there any highlights from the meeting?
Yes, there were some amazing talks. We had two fantastic talks from American colleagues who are pioneering a way of genetically modifying immune cells called T-cells so that they recognise leukaemia and now we’re moving on to other malignancies. This is an approach called CAR T-cell transfer and we’re seeing extraordinary results in a number of different institutions, both in the States and now we’re beginning to open those studies in the UK. The challenge is now going to be to try and extend those results from ALL, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, which is the relatively low hanging fruit and easy to target, to other solid malignancies which may prove more difficult.
What sorts of discussions took place?
We were discussing which of these technologies… there are various different approaches that one could take: antibody-based approaches, T-cell based approaches, vaccination approaches, and we were discussing which of these approaches is appropriate for which kind of disease, which is looking more promising for specific diseases and what are the sort of logistic barriers to taking this forward from small phase I studies in 10-20 patients to making it routine use in hundreds or thousands of patients.
Were there treatment options that stood out as preferential following that discussion?
I think the likelihood is that there will be specific therapies that have individual niches and it may be that one approach is better for one disease and other approaches are better for other diseases. Ultimately I think it’s likely that these things will be determined empirically by doing clinical trials.
What are your thoughts on the conference?
Well it’s been a very inspiring conference, we have had some really excellent speakers and I guess all these conferences you network with other people, you come up with ideas for new approaches and it will be very interesting to see how these things develop over the next few years.