The NMTRC (Neuroblastoma & Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium) is a group of 18 universities and children’s hospitals headquartered in Grand Rapids, MI which offer a nationwide network of childhood cancer clinical trials. The group is chaired by Dr Giselle Sholler. These trials are based on the research from a group of closely collaborating investigators who are linked with laboratory programs developing novel therapies for high-risk neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma.
They’re one of the groups Because of Ezra supports financially under our mission of funding relevant, patient-affecting research into a cure for neuroblastoma. The NMTRC hosts an annual symposium, where the members meet to discuss the previous year’s work and future directions. The 2013 symposium was this past Monday and Tuesday (May 6-7) at the Wyndham hotel in Lake Buena Vista, Orlando, FL. Video will be on YouTube within the next week or two (and we’ll mention when it is), but we wanted to share some of the experiences here first.
The NMTRC is unique in the level of community between the physicians, scientists, and families (both in treatment, out of treatment, and those running foundations). We largely attend the same presentations, dinners, and have structured open conversations about the work being done. The depth of collaboration is refreshing and inspiring. When you have parents whose children are ON a trial participating in the same conversations as the scientists who proposed the trial, the organizations funding it, and the physicians carrying them out… it’s an incredibly effective synergy.
The work being done is truly remarkable – the first ever FDA approved personalized medicine trial for pediatric cancer, preventative trials to reduce the rate of relapse (in this case with a drug called DFMO), immunotherapy, and more. One of the most interesting presentations was by David Krag, MD, who is the SD Ireland Professor of Surgery at the University of Vermont (yes, he said, surgeons do science, too!). Titled Personalized Antibody – Timeline to Clinical Impact, Dr Krag discussed an exciting method of harnessing the body’s own immune system to create personalized antibodies specifically for an individual’s neuroblastoma tumor. It should be going to trial this year.
Personalized medicine is a concept at the core of what the NMTRC is doing. It has the huge benefit of being much less toxic (and much more targeted) than the standard chemotherapy regimens currently prescribed for neuroblastoma. These current standards are not effective (survival rates for stage 4 neuroblastoma hover at 40%, with relapsed neuroblastoma still having no known cure), and include rounds of treatment with what physicians call “kitchen sink chemo.” Partnerships between the NMTRC and the Translational Genomics Research Institue and Dell have pushed forward much of this work by analyzing individual patient’s tumors to find treatment options specific to their disease.
We got to spend some great time with non-profits also working toward a cure for neuroblastoma – and families who are battling it now. Some of the children represented included Will Lacey, Melina Riniolo, Brooke Hester, Saoirse Fitzgerald, Abigail Goss, Daxton Blanford, Chase Ringler – and there were even more. These children are each reasons we fight, and reasons why continuing the battle against neuroblastoma is so very important. Neuroblastoma CAN and WILL be beaten – and it is going to take time, passion, awareness, and funding. We are so, so, so, so grateful to have your support in making this a reality.