Cureworks collaborative aims to accelerate development of immunotherapies for pediatric cancer

Seattle Children's, with participating members Children's National Health System, BC Children's Hospital and Children's Hospital Los Angeles, has launched CureWorks, an international collaborative of leading academic children's hospitals determined to accelerate the development of immunotherapy treatments for childhood cancer. CureWorks focuses on expanding immunotherapy trials and patient access around the world, as well as sharing data and collective expertise to advance novel cell therapies.

CureWorks was founded on the idea that in order to revolutionize treatment for pediatric cancer, academic institutions must work together to achieve better treatments and outcomes for children. As the founding member, Seattle Children's is seeing promising results in its chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy trials, and has one of the largest pipelines of open clinical trials aimed at treating pediatric blood and solid tumor cancers that do not respond to standard therapy by harnessing the immune system.

Seattle Children's strongly believes there is an opportunity to combine the strengths of multiple hospital researchers into this collaborative effort to expand the reach of pediatric immunotherapy cancer trials. CureWorks will not only increase the number of immunotherapy trial sites around the globe, it will also aim to quicken the pace of pediatric cancer discovery by diversifying and expanding the amount of data available to researchers through its scientific network.

"We believe a unified effort among leading children's hospitals is the best way to drive the discovery of new therapies for pediatric cancer," said Dr. Mike Jensen, executive director of CureWorks and director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children's Research Institute. "Our hope is that through this collaboration, we'll be able to more quickly develop treatments with fewer side effects, better remission rates and, ultimately, enable more kids with cancer to grow up and realize their full potential."

Member hospitals will have the option to participate in clinical trials offered through CureWorks, allowing their patients access to groundbreaking cancer immunotherapies in their own community. Once these trials are open at a CureWorks member hospital site, immune cells will be collected from the patient and sent to Seattle Children's Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) facility. There, the T cells will be reprogrammed to express the CAR protein, enabling them to recognize and fight cancer. The newly engineered, cancer-fighting T cells will then be shipped back to the patient's health care team for infusion. In addition to facilitating production of immunotherapy treatments, CureWorks will also streamline the clinical trial enrollment and coordination process for members.

"We are thrilled to be a part of this joint effort to fight childhood cancers with the latest research and cutting-edge cellular therapies," said Dr. Catherine Bollard, MBChB, director of the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research at Children's National Health System. "By expanding cancer immunotherapies developed at CureWorks institutions including Children's National, we hope to increase patient access to life-saving novel therapies across the United States, while also accelerating the pace of pediatric cancer research."

"The next advance for childhood cancer treatment is new immune therapies," said Dr. Kirk Schultz, oncologist and director of the Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Research Program at BC Children's Hospital and professor, Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia. "CureWorks will give children in British Columbia access to cutting edge CAR T-cell therapy for leukemia and other childhood cancers."

"CAR T-cell therapy has been called the single greatest therapeutic advance in childhood leukemia in a generation," said Dr. Alan S. Wayne, director of the Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases at Children's Hospital Los Angeles and professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. "Through CHLA's partnership with CureWorks, we expect to speed the development of this important new therapy to provide more effective treatment for children and young adults afflicted with many types of cancer in the U.S. and around the globe."

CureWorks members will also have access to new technology shared across the collaborative, and the ability to launch clinical trials at multiple clinical sites with support from Seattle Children's GMP facility.

In recognizing that a larger network of hospitals will help fuel discovery, CureWorks is looking for other institutions to join in the commitment to expand access to these promising cures for children.

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