Trial begins to solve complicated treatment problem for child cancer
To get around this, doctors usually strip the disease-fighting T cells and B cells from the donor cell transplant, but this means the transplant recipient is at a higher risk of developing serious infections.
Sorting out the complicated problem has been the work of researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane, who developed a method of treating the T cells from the donor tissue and then introducing them to the recipient child four weeks after the initial transplant.
Professor Rajiv Khanna, the head of QIMR’s Centre for Immunotherapy and Vaccine Development, said the method removed all the known adverse side-effects of the treatment.
“Doctors have been left in a complicated situation because they have an effective treatment for these conditions but it also causes new problems which then have to be dealt with,” Professor Khanna said.
“What we hope is that this method could become a routine treatment, which would be good news for these children.”
The clinical trial will begin with children at the Queensland Children’s Hospital, and is expected to expand to The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney Children’s Hospital and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne over the next two years.
Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Queensland Children’s Hospital, Chris Fraser, said they have high hopes for the trial.
“We want to continue to boost the patient’s immune system every fortnight so they’re protected against cytomegalovirus, Epstein-Barr virus, BK virus and adenovirus, and their stem cell transplant can work effectively to kill off their blood cancer or correct their immune deficiency,” Dr Fraser said.
“The immunotherapy will continue for approximately two months, after which we will follow these patients for eight months or more to confirm the therapy is safe.”
The trial is being jointly supported by QIMR and the Queensland Children’s Hospital Foundation, with the foundation’s CEO Rosie Simpson saying they were happy to support any chance of giving sick children a better chance of recovery.
“This trial provides important hope of better outcomes for the families going through the stem cell transplant process, and also adds to the growing wealth of knowledge on how best to treat viral complications,” Ms Simpson said.
Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.