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Using “Killer Cells” to Treat High-Risk Pediatric Tumors

Nov. 15, 2012

Scientists from the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the BloodCenter of Wisconsin received a one-year, $50,000 grant from the Clinical and Translational Science Institute of Southeast Wisconsin (CTSI) to study new methods to treat solid tumors in pediatric patients.

The primary investigator on the study is Monica Thakar, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics - hematology and oncology and bone marrow transplant at MCW and investigator at Children’s Research Institute. Co-primary investigators are Subramaniam Malarkannan, Ph.D., associate professor of medicine - hematology and oncology at the Medical College and investigator at the Blood Research Institute; Meghen Browning, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics - hematology and oncology at MCW and pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital; and Kristina Schuldt, B.S., research assistant at the Blood Research Institute.

This Phase I/II study uses a dual immunotherapy approach to treat patients with high-risk malignant solid tumors. In the clinical trial, researchers will use natural killer (NK) cells and allogeneic hematopoietic stem cells to treat high-risk refractory patients with solid tumors. The study also seeks to evaluate the relationship between different NK cell phenotypes and the cytokines and chemokines that emerge from this approach.

This is one of 19 pilot projects being funded in 2012 through CTSI. The goal is to create synergy through collaboration, and studies are specifically designed to lead to major future research support. The projects explore findings that have the potential to be translated into clinical practice and community health, and are led by investigators at the CTSI’s eight partnering institutions: the Medical College of Wisconsin, Marquette University, Milwaukee School of Engineering, UW-Milwaukee, Froedtert Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, the VA Medical Center, and the BloodCenter of Wisconsin.

CTSI is part of a national consortium of top medical research institutions. Working together, the CTSI institutions are committed to improve human health by streamlining science, transforming training environments and improving the conduct, quality and dissemination of clinical and translational research. The CTSI program is led by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Support for the Pilot Award Program comes from the National Institutes of Health, the John and Jeanne Byrnes CTSI Award, and both MCW’s Advancing a Healthier Wisconsin program, and MCW’s Biotechnology and Bioengineering Center.

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