(Jeremy C. Fox for Boston.com)
Tufts Medical Center announced this week that its Floating Hospital for Children will establish a new cancer treatment institute to develop individualized treatments for children whose cancers do not respond to traditional treatments.
The Newman-Lakka Institute for Personalized Cancer Care will also be the first to build a centralized database to track treatment outcomes in these cases, allowing doctors to share information and offer treatment to thousands more children with rare and recurring tumors.
Dr. Giannoula Lakka Klement, scientific director of the new institute and pediatric hematologist/oncologist at the Floating Hospital, said this database would make it possible to trace how patients responded to specific treatments.
The statement said the institute will build on progress researchers have made over the past decade in identifying molecular pathways unique to cancerous growth and the new drugs developed to target those pathways.
By combining treatments in a manner similar to the “drug cocktail” that has successfully treated HIV in many patients, doctors can inhibit multiple cancer pathways, forcing tumors into dormancy that previously would have been untreatable. As with the HIV treatment, this can turn the cancers into a chronic but manageable condition while sparing healthy cells and causing far fewer side effects than other cancer treatments.
By studying these treatments and identifying the ways to make them most effective, the institute may be able to provide evidence of their effectiveness that will encourage insurance companies to cover these expensive treatments for children, something many insurers are currently reluctant to do.
Oncologists at major cancer centers around the country will participate in collecting, sharing, and analyzing data with the institute. Participating medical centers include MD Anderson Cancer Center, New York University Langone Medical Center, University of Texas, Miami Children’s Hospital, Children’s National Medical Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, University of Minnesota Medical Center and University of Heidelberg, Germany.
The institute is made possible by a $2.5 million pledge from the Newman-Lakka Cancer Foundation founded by C.J. Newman, himself a survivor of renal cell cancer. The experience inspired Newman, an Arizona investment banker, to focus his philanthropy on personalized cancer treatment research.
For more information, visit the Tufts Medical Center site here.