Innovation Spotlight

February 10, 2015 by

University of Virginia Health System Grant:  A clinical sequencing program to direct treatment of relapsed pediatric cancers.

This program is offered to pediatric patients with solid tumor cancers who have relapsed or who have cancer that is resistant to chemotherapy and is progressing to find a novel agent to treat their disease. We gene sequence their primary and resistant tumor and search for mutations which are known to have drug therapy which can act on that mutation. This provides the ability to personalize therapy for their individual tumor and to use drugs/therapies which are not commonly used as chemotherapy for their tumors. A second objective of the study is to determine if there are certain mutations within a cancer that predicts failure or metastasis. If we could determine upfront those at risk for failure then other therapies could be instituted earlier.

How do you define innovation?

Innovation is the practical application of problem solving after looking at the problem in a new way, from a different angle.

How do you apply that each day?

Any problem we encounter should be viewed as an opportunity. It is in problem solving that we are able to use our creativity to get to innovation. It is usually a problem that inspires us to do our best work. I think all of us have these opportunities every day.

What makes your project stand out?

This project allows us to try innovative, personalized therapy for incurable cancers in children. While a single agent may not be the complete answer to treatment for these children, it may allow us to change the disease from a lethal one to a more chronic one and allow a bridge until more definitive therapy can be devised.

What do you feel is the most exciting part of your program?

I think we are able to offer today to children what will be the standard of care in the near future. We will be able to offer a more cogent therapy based on the careful analysis of an individual cancer rather than generic cytotoxic therapy.  We will soon be expanding this therapy by working with a consortium of 20 institutions on a similar genomics study for children with recalcitrant cancers.

What have you learned from this program or project that you would share with others in the department?

Collaboration is the only way to answer important questions or solve difficult problems. This project involved colleagues from many different disciplines: pathology, bioinformatics, molecular geneticists, pediatric oncologists both basic scientists and clinicians. All were vital to providing the innovation to the difficult problem.

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