Funded by the Dick Vitale Pediatric Cancer Research Fund
Children with aggressive brain tumors do poorly, and outcomes haven’t gotten much better for these terrible diseases in the past thirty years. A recent new treatment called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy provides hope for these patients. CAR T cell therapy takes a patient’s own immune cells and reprograms them to find and kill cancer cells. We recently opened a unique Phase I clinical trial (NCT04510051) that uses CAR T cells to help children with hard-to-treat brain tumors.
We are excited that the first few patients treated on our trial had some shrinkage of their tumors. This gives us hope that CAR T treatment can help children with these diseases. Unfortunately, responses so far have been temporary, highlighting the clear and urgent need to improve these promising therapies. Our trial lets us sample cerebrospinal fluid repeatedly during treatment. This gives us a valuable chance to study in fine detail how CAR T cells talk to the patient’s immune system, and how that conversation changes over time. We know that if CAR T cells can teach the immune system to destroy tumor cells, treatment will work better. However, this does not happen very often in patients. Our study will help us figure out how to make CAR T cells that effectively promote an antitumor immune response, leading to better therapy for pediatric brain tumors with five years.