Neuroblastoma is the most common extra cranial solid tumor of childhood, and 45% of patients have aggressive tumors, nearly all of which are metastatic (stage 4) when diagnosed. Over the past 20 years, long-term survival has steadily improved to 40% with increasing intensity of non-specific cytotoxic induction and consolidation therapy and with biotherapy of minimal residual disease after consolidation. Even though long-term survival has improved, the limit of host tolerance for non-specific cytotoxic therapy has been reached. We hypothesize that improved survival for newly diagnosed patients as well as for established patients with refractory or recurrent disease will result from new combinatorial therapies that target critical pathways of tumor and host cells that promote neuroblastoma growth and survival in primary and metastatic sites. Thus, the unifying theme of this PPG is to integrate biology and developmental therapeutics research with early phase clinical trials with the overall goal of improving survival for children with high-risk neuroblastoma.
Our Specific Aims are as follows: 1) Perform biologic research to identify and further understand molecules and pathways of tumor and microenvironment cells that are responsible for neuroblastoma growth. 2) Perform pre-clinical therapeutic research with drugs and biologics to develop effective strategies against neuroblastoma. 3) Perform early phase clinical trials of combinatorial strategies targeting molecules and pathways of tumor and microenvironment cells to determine appropriate dose and schedule, pharmacology and pharmacodynamics, and, within the context of such trials, anti-tumor activity. Project 1: The bone marrow microenvironment is investigated with emphasis on the role of IL-6 and STAT3 activation in bone marrow and bone metastasis and on identifying effective drugs and biologics that target this pathway. Project 2: Immunotherapy strategies focus on natural killer (NK) cells. Studies maximize NK activity with tumor cell targeting antibodies and with agents that modify the tumor microenvironment milieu to minimize NK suppressive effects of monocytes/macrophages producing IL-6 and TGF?1. Project 3: Small molecules, including PI3K, PI3K+mT0R, and Aurora Kinase A inhibitors that result in destabilization and degradation [sic] the MYCN protein, are investigated for their anti-tumor cell activity as well as their effects upon microenvironment cells. Project 4: New strategies developed in our laboratories are tested in phase I and II trials by the New Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy (NANT) consortium (www.nant.org), which includes 15 pediatric oncology institutions across the US and in Canada.
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