Research Reports 2002

During 2002 the RCH commenced the trial of a new drug. Here is Dr David Ashley’s note.

We have just enrolled our first patient on a clinical trial involving a new drug called Glivec (Gleevec). The aim of the study is to find out how safe and effective this new drug is on certain solid tumours that occur in children and young adults. Researchers have found that Glivec can slow down or stop the growth of some tumour cells. Glivec is already approved for treating certain cancers in adults. However, this medication has never been tried in children with solid tumours.

In the winter of 2002, Dr David Ashley reported on the vaccine programme as follows.

I am pleased to report that through your sponsorship of our vaccine program, we have now been able to successfully implement three early phase studies of this technology in Outpatients. There have been 15 patients treated so far on three protocols, those with newly diagnosed neuroblastoma, a group with high risk solid tumours of childhood, and recurrent high risk brain tumours of childhood. The results to date have clearly demonstrated that we have the technical capability and are able to produce the vaccines at the highest level of quality required for human trials. This is no small undertaking, as it has required much manpower from both Denise Caruso, our post doctoral scientist and Alana Gardiner, who have been funded by Bluey Day.

In addition to this feasibility and technical aspects, we have been able to show that the administration of Dendritic Cell anti-cancer vaccines to patients is safe and has not been associated with any adverse events.

One of the secondary aims of the program to-date has been to measure the patient’s immune responses and their general immune capabilities. It is clear from these studies that many of our patients enrolled on our vaccines trials are still suffering from the effects of previous treatment and have immune deficits related to this.  As well, a number of patients with active turnouts show abnormalities in their immune system despite the fact that they have not had any recent therapy. These abnormalities almost certainly relate to the cancer itself.  These immune problems will certainly serve as barriers to the effectiveness of the vaccine therapy and it is our intention to focus on understanding the nature of these problems in order to better formulate appropriate vaccines and come up with a rational vaccination schedule. These studies will form the basis of our research in the next few years.

Once again, I can only thank CIKA on behalf of children with cancer and the Department of Haematology/Oncology for your generous support of this program. Many thanks.

Yours sincerely

A/Professor David M Ashley