The “Cancer Moonshot” initiative to accelerate progress in cancer research and encourage greater collaboration and sharing of data, has now moved from planning to research. A research project funded by the National Cancer Institute https://www.cancer.gov is working on “Creating a Pediatric Immunotherapy Discovery and Development Network” (PI-DDN) to address immunotherapy in children.
Immunotherapy leverages the ability of the immune system to recognize and destroy infected, damaged, and transformed cells. While immunotherapeutic approaches have been used to successfully treat a limited number of childhood cancers, particularly leukemia and neuroblastoma, there are currently no effective immunotherapy options for most patients living with high-risk or difficult to treat childhood cancers.
There are a number of barriers to the developing immunotherapies for childhood cancers. Unlike many adult tumors, many childhood cancers express few or no markers that can be recognized by the immune system.
Similarly, many immunotherapies target specific markers expressed in adult cancers but not in childhood cancers. Tumors of childhood cancer patients can also develop a microenvironment that can suppress immunity and reduce the effectiveness of immunotherapies.
NCI funding for research projects involved in developing PI-DDN is going to be conducted at the University of Colorado Denver, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
After working to create the PI-DNN, researchers are going to help determine targets for immunotherapies, and develop and test effective new treatment approaches. Treatments may include cancer vaccines, cellular therapy, and a combination of immunotherapy and other forms of therapy.
Go to https://www.cancer.gov/research/key-initiatives/moonshot-cancer-initiative for more information on the Cancer Moonshot Initiative.