Last year, Paul Sondel, MD, PhD, the director of pediatric oncology at American Family Children’s Hospital (AFCH), and his colleagues became part of a national pediatric cancer research “Dream Team.”
The “Dream Team,” a consortium of seven childhood cancer treatment/research centers, was awarded a four-year, $14.5 million grant from Stand Up to Cancer, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to develop novel immunotherapy treatments for high-risk childhood cancers.
Dr. Sondel’s colleagues on the AFCH team are Kenneth DeSantes, MD; Christian Capitini, MD; Peiman Hematti, MD; Mario Otto, MD, PhD; Alexander Rakhmilevich, MD, PhD; and Jacquelyn Hank, PhD.
Their work focuses on stimulating or enhancing the immune system to fight cancer through infusion of antibodies, infusion of activated or genetically modified white blood cells (such as T cells or natural killer cells) or use of cell-signaling/activating drugs.
Dr. Sondel’s team also received a $250,000 grant from Hyundai Hope on Wheels to continue research on the innovative immunotherapy treatment they helped pioneer for neuroblastoma.
Without immunotherapy, the survival rate for high-risk neuroblastoma is less than 40 percent; the addition of immunotherapy has boosted survival by 20%.
In addition, last year’s fifth Kids With Courage reunion honored every child who has been treated for cancer at American Family Children’s Hospital (or the former UW Children’s Hospital)—including those who did not survive their diseases.
Cindy Crawford, whose younger brother died of leukemia in 1975 at UW Children’s Hospital, is the honorary chair of Kids With Courage. She, along with Dr. Sondel and cancer survivor Kelly Cotter, co-founded Kids With Courage in 1993.