14:05 PM

Aiming for the Moon with Cancer Research

Cook Children's Helps Lead Fight Against Childhood Cancer with Clinical Trials

Last night, during his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama announced this generation's equivalent to landing on the moon. He tasked Vice President Joe Biden with leading a new national effort to cure cancer.

"This is our moonshot," Obama said in his address to a joint session of Congress, prompting a bipartisan roar of applause.

At Cook Children's Medical Center, efforts to land on that so-called moon have been underway for more than 35 years. As an active research facility, Cook Children's Hematology and Oncology Center is currently participating in about 90 clinical trials aimed at stomping out childhood cancer and blood disorders. For patients and their families, the research happening at Cook Children's means options for novel and leading-edge therapies are accessible in Fort Worth.

"We diagnose around 180 new cancer patients each year and many others are referred to us for relapsed or advanced therapies," said Gretchen Eames, MD, MPH. "At Cook Children's, the majority of these patients go on to enroll in a clinical trial."

Dr. Eames is the Medical Director of Hematology the Oncology Center at Cook Children's and knows firsthand how important clinical research is not only to patients, but to the medical community.

"Pediatric cancer research has really taken the lead. We've made great advances in survival rates because of our clinical research," she said.

Dr. Eames attributes that lead to a higher percentage of pediatric patients being placed on clinical trials compared to adults and to many biologic studies incorporated in the trials that allow the team to target therapy specifically for the patient's type of cancer. According to a blog post made by Vice President Biden, only 5 percent of adult cancer patients in the U.S. end up in a clinical trial. In contrast, 60 percent of patients under age 29 are enrolled in trials.

"We couldn't do it without collaboration," said Dr. Eames.

Researchers at Cook Children's are active in several nationally known cooperative groups. These groups, including Children's Oncology Group and New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy, work together to develop protocols, increase patient enrollment, and share information, all in hopes of furthering success in treating and curing a variety of childhood cancers. Collaboration among cancer fighters, like this, is one of the two main goals Vice President Biden has announced. His second goal is to increase financial resources.

"The dollars provided by government funding is very limited. We are dependent on community members and foundations to help us raise awareness of the need to continue research efforts," said Dr. Eames. "It takes an army of people and a lot of funding to carry out just one clinical trial. Regardless of what happens, we're going to be dedicated to research."

About the Source 

Gretchen Eames, M.D. MPH, is the Medical Director of The Hematology and Oncology Center and Stem Cell Transplant Program at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas.  For more information, visit The Hematology and Oncology Center's website