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Phase I and II Clinical Research Program Infrastructure Award

University of Minnesota
Brenda Weigel, MD & Emily Greengard MD
Grant Type: 
Phase I/II Infrastructure Grants
Year Awarded: 
Type of Childhood Cancer: 
Brain Tumors, Leukemia, Solid and Bone Cancers
Project Description: 

Currently, our program is actively developing agents in three areas: brain tumors, sarcomas and leukemias. These trials are local investigator-initiated trials that have local, national, and/or pharmaceutical support. These three areas form the pillars of our pediatric drug development program. The agents in development marry the best in scientific development at the University of Minnesota, namely cellular and immune-based therapies with clinical trial expertise.  “The support of ALSF is critical in translating findings from the lab to the clinic and moving us towards greater cures for childhood cancers.” - Dr. Brenda Weigel

Project Goal
This award will allow for the ongoing development of new agents for patients with childhood cancers treated at the University of Minnesota and elsewhere. We are focusing our work on developing new therapies for brain tumors, sarcomas as well as leukemias. The new therapies are targeted at specific markers on the cancer cells that hopefully allow for a great chance for cure compared to other non-targeted therapies. The ALSF grant allows us to maintain the necessary staff to continue this work and bring it to the clinic to treat children with cancer. It also allows us the ability to work with other institutions to bring new therapies to a greater number of children.

Project Update 2016
Our Infrastructure Award from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was sought to expand the breadth and depth of cancer therapy that is available to children and young adults with cancer in the Upper Midwest. Within our Cancer Center, new therapies for both solid tumors and leukemias must be moved from the laboratory to our patients in a safe yet timely fashion. The expansion of our program enhances the therapeutic options for children who come to the UMN for novel therapies.

We continue to utilize this award to have an impact on moving research from “bench to bedside” more quickly by adding capacity. Additional staff has been and will be hired to process and maintain data for new studies, which means that more research can be undertaken and the results can be translated into useful recommendations faster. Since receiving the award, the addition of staff has allowed us to:
1) Complete 2 novel tumor vaccine studies in children with brain tumors.
2) Complete a novel chemotherapy study in children with leukemia that has formed the basis for a national clinical trial
3) Proceed with opening and continuing MIBG therapy for patients with neuroblastoma and pheochromocytoma. (MIBG is the name of the chemical used, meta-iodo-benzyl-guanidine.)

New treatment agents are researched through local-investigator-initiated trials that have local, national, and/or pharmaceutical support. Developing these agents for use in patients combines the best in scientific development at the UMN, namely cellular therapies, immune-based therapies, and clinical trial expertise. The Alex’s Lemonade Stand award allowed us to develop and expand the infrastructure for sustained support of these novel early phase trials in pediatric oncology.