UofL Physicians Conducting Vaccine Trial for Children with Relapsed Tumors at Kosair Children’s Hospital

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A new Phase I cancer research trial in Louisville, Ky., will test a new treatment for pediatric relapsed tumors. The unique regimen of chemotherapy and vaccinations is intended to stimulate the immune system into fighting the tumor.

Special vaccine is injected into a patient in a clinical trial for certain recurring childhood tumors.

The vaccine is designed to stimulate the patient’s immune system to attack specific tumor proteins, and then fight the tumor. Kenneth G. Lucas, M.D., UofL Department of Pediatrics and Kosair Children's Hospital

A new Phase I research study is looking at a vaccine that hopes to prevent recurrence of some childhood cancers. The study is led by Kenneth G. Lucas, M.D., chief of the division of pediatric hematology/oncology and stem cell transplantation at the University of Louisville in collaboration with colleagues at Kosair Children’s Hospital and in the UofL Department of Pediatrics. Patients are currently being accepted for the cancer research trial.

Lucas began the trial – the only one of its kind – while on the faculty of Penn State in 2011. Coming to Louisville in 2012, he now has three patients enrolled in the trial. Another 13 have previously completed the regimen. He uses the patient’s own blood cells in developing the vaccine.

“The vaccine is designed to stimulate the patient’s immune system to attack specific tumor proteins, and then fight the tumor,” said Lucas, who also is the chief of pediatric hematology/oncology at Kosair Children’s Hospital.

The vaccine is prepared and frozen in a cell therapy lab and then thawed for injection. Patients come to UofL’s Kosair Charities Pediatric Clinical Research Unit for a week of chemotherapy that helps make the tumor cells express these cancer proteins. These proteins enable the tumors to be killed by immune cells that are stimulated by the vaccine.

The following two weeks are devoted to vaccination, followed by another two weeks of observation for side effects to the vaccine. The process is repeated four times, making the treatment take anywhere from four to five months. Thus far, the vaccine has been well tolerated by most patients, Lucas said.

Patients may be referred by their own physician or can self-refer, Lucas said. Anyone interested in the trial should contact KCPCRU(at)louisville(dot)edu or (502) 629-5820.

The cancer research trial is partially funded by the Children’s Hospital Foundation and raiseRED, a dance marathon fundraising effort organized by UofL students to support pediatric cancer research.


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