News from the Child Health Discovery Institute
New Drug Studies Could Help Fight Cancer
Researchers at Children’s Hospital of Georgia are getting closer to helping the body attack and eliminate cancerous tumors.
Clinical trials have just begun using one-methyl-tryptophan, an immune system stimulator designed to prevent the immune system from shutting down when invaded by cancerous tumors.
“The body’s immune system is great at recognizing and fighting off viruses and bacteria, but it fails to recognize cancer cells as foreign and dangerous,” explains Dr. David Munn, director of the cancer immunotherapy program at Georgia Regents Medical Center.
“Somehow a cancerous tumor is able to persuade the immune system to leave it alone and not reply to its foreign antigens.”
The stimulator drug acts by redirecting the immune system so it responds to the tumor as it should, attacking and eliminating it.
Going from bench to bedside at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, the study originated in the lab and is now in human clinical trials, with the hope that testing will expand to children in the next few years.
With their rough-and-tough immune systems, most kids respond to, and tolerate, chemotherapy well. More than 40 years of pediatric oncology clinical trials around the world have lead to tremendous success using chemotherapy for patients like Carly Rivers, who suffered from a Wilms’ tumor.
“We’re getting better and better at figuring out what drugs to use,” says Dr. Munn. “The success rate in curing kids using chemotherapy is great, but we still have a few kids who don’t respond, so that’s where we need the research to continue.”
For these kids, as well as children with other disorders that don’t respond well to chemo, the immune system stimulator will serve as another method of defense.
“It’s another frontline weapon,” explains Dr. Munn. “This attack is for kids who need something additional, in combination with chemo.”
David H. Munn, MD
Professor of Pediatrics