June 16, 2024
Pediatric Cancers

Revolutionary Approach Offers Hope for Treatment of Challenging Pediatric Cancers

Groundbreaking research has introduced a new precision medicine strategy aimed at combating cancer by integrating genetic testing with a novel method of evaluating individual drugs on tumor specimens. The outcomes of the clinical investigation were disclosed in a publication by the journal Nature Medicine.

In a collaborative endeavor with First Ascent Biomedical and Dr. Maggie Fader at the Helen & Jacob Shaham Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, Florida International University cancer researcher Diana Azzam fashioned a combined approach, marking its successful application to guide the treatment of relapsed pediatric cancer patients for the first time.

An overwhelming 83% of children exhibited progress as a result of this approach, exemplified by the case of 8-year-old Logan Jenner, whose relapsed leukemia was effectively managed utilizing Azzam’s innovative methodology.

The findings are immensely encouraging given the intricate challenge of treating recurring cancers. Azzam, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at FIU’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, and a board member of the Society for Functional Precision Medicine, asserted that witnessing improvement in 83% of patients holds considerable promise in transforming cancer into a manageable condition.

In the United States, approximately 2 million individuals are diagnosed with cancer annually, with an anticipatory mortality rate of over 600,000 persons, as reported by the National Cancer Institute. The approach advocated by Azzam exhibits several advantages over current precision medicine protocols, including expedited results and expanded treatment alternatives for medical practitioners.

Azzam’s methodology entails the collection of a blood or tumor sample, followed by the enhancement and processing of cancer cells in a laboratory setting that closely replicates their natural growth environment. Subsequently, the cancer cells are exposed to more than 120 FDA-approved drugs, encompassing both cancer-specific and non-cancer medications, which may also be tested in various combinations as determined by the clinical panel. The most effective anticancer agents are then identified, culminating in a process that spans about a week.

Dean Tom├ís R. Guilarte of Stempel College applauded Azzam’s approach for eliminating conjecture and supplying a curated list of the most efficacious drugs for oncologists to work with. This process accelerates our comprehension of the most beneficial cancer treatments tailored to patients’ specific requirements.

Logan Jenner’s poignant journey serves as a poignant testament to the success of Azzam’s approach in managing acute myeloid leukemia. After experiencing a relapse post-initial treatment, Logan was enrolled in the clinical trial overseen by Dr. Fader, an oncologist and co-investigator on the study.

The seamless and prompt accessibility of optimal regimen recommendations is one of the noteworthy aspects of Azzam’s approach, underlined by Fader. In the context of a deteriorating health condition, especially in pediatric cases, the urgency in identifying the most effective treatment cannot be overstated.

Subsequent to Azzam’s drug testing results for Logan, a tailored drug combination was recommended, revealing the ability to withhold a medication known for cardiac toxicity without compromising treatment efficacy. The prompt implementation of Azzam’s regimen led to Logan’s achievement of remission within 33 days compared to the protracted 150 days required in the past. Two years post-treatment initiation, Logan remains free of cancer.

Out of the 19 participants in the trial, six individuals adopted treatment guided by Azzam’s outcomes, with five, including Logan, showcasing enhanced survival rates over the study duration. Notably, the trial encompassed a predominantly ethnic minority population, underscoring the critical aspect of investigating varied responses to FDA-approved drugs among distinct demographic groups.

Moreover, Azzam is at the helm of a research initiative aimed at mitigating health disparities among childhood cancer patients within minority communities, under the aegis of FIU’s Research Center in Minority Institutions.

Ongoing comprehensive clinical trials tailored to personalized cancer treatment for both pediatric and adult populations are currently in progress, indicating an exciting trajectory in precision medicine development.

Azzam’s laboratory is earmarked to be the foremost federally certified large-scale facility dedicated to functional cancer drug testing in Florida, promising a paradigm shift in oncological treatment approaches.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it.