Featuring Children's Hospital investigators as well as researchers from outside the Research Institute, the Center for Childhood Cancer Research(CCCR) recently held its inaugural symposium on pediatric cancer research. The daylong meeting was focused on the broad theme of translational research, or "how the work is going to impact patients in real time," said John Maris, MD, director of the CCCR.

The day included presentations from a number of pioneering cancer researchers and innovators, including Columbia University's Adolfo Ferrando, MD, PhD; Kevin Shannon, MD, from the University of California San Francisco; and the Broad Institute and Harvard Medical School's Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD. The symposium was made possible with support from Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF).

In his opening remarks, Philip Johnson MD, chief scientific officer of the CHOP Research Institute, noted that while he has at times struggled to translate what constitutes translational research into "understandable stories," the work done by the oncology group always made his job easier. People "get it immediately, they understand that the science impacts the care and the care impacts the science," Dr. Johnson said.

Stephan Grupp, MD, PhD, CCCR director of translational research, discussed his recent work treating acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) with engineered t-cells. The most common form of childhood leukemia, ALL is largely curable, with an 85 percent cure rate. However, in part because the other 15 percent of ALL patients have limited treatment options, Dr. Grupp has been working on immunotherapeutic treatments for the disease.

Though the mortality rate from childhood cancers was greatly reduced throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, the reduction in mortality has slowed since 1998, Dr. Grupp noted, pointing out that at the current rate of improvement it would take 150 years to get down to zero. Because of this, "we really need to be thinking in a completely new way about how to treat patients with cancer," he noted.