Grants - Translational Grants - Alabama - 2021

Gregory Friedman, MD

Funded by the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund

Outcomes for children with brain cancer are poor and current therapies are harmful to normal cells in the body. New therapies that only target cancer cells are greatly needed to improve outcomes for this terrible disease. We tested the ability of a modified cold-sore virus to target and kill brain cancer while not injuring normal cells in children. Results from the clinical trial were very exciting. We found that the virus directly kills cancer cells and also stimulates a child’s own immune system to attack the tumor. From the trial, we learned that in order to achieve even greater responses from the therapy, we need to continue the immune system attack on the tumor. To achieve this goal, we will combine two therapies that work well together: the altered cold-sore virus with a unique cancer vaccine. When the cancer vaccine is given before the virus, it prepares the immune system to fight the cancer and improves the virus’ ability to kill the cancer and stimulate the immune system attack on the cancer. We plan to create the ideal cancer vaccine with the cold-sore virus in the lab and then conduct a clinical trial of the combination therapy to benefit children in great need of more effective and less-toxic treatments. We expect these exciting therapies will result in even better outcomes in children with brain cancer. Importantly, this combination therapy can be used to treat other pediatric cancers, increasing the overall potential to help children with cancer and their families.