Source: Dr. Mike Jensen, Director, Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research
Strong Against Cancer team,
When I came to Seattle Children’s in 2010, my vision was for us to become a global epicenter for childhood cancer immunotherapy cures. I imagined that, someday, doctors from around the world would send us blood cells from children with cancer. We would insert instructions into T cells – a “warrior” type of immune cell – that tell them to find and kill cancer cells. Then we would send the “reprogrammed” cells back to the hospital, where the child would receive them as a simple infusion.
I’m excited to announce that we’ve taken another key step toward this vision: A child in Los Angeles recently received our revolutionary immunotherapy in their home hospital.
This child’s best shot at survival was to join our PLAT-02 clinical trial of T-cell immunotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). So doctors in Los Angeles rushed a vial of the patient’s blood to my team at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research. We removed the infection-fighting T cells and engineered them to attack cancer cells. Then we flew the modified cells back to Los Angeles, where they were infused into the patient in their own hometown.
Now that child and family have hope of beating leukemia, and they didn’t have to upend their lives by coming to Seattle for weeks of treatment. This family will be the first of many: We are building the infrastructure and expertise to add many more hospitals to our clinical trials, extending our therapy to children across the nation – and potentially around the world.
So far, 93 percent of children in our ALL trial have achieved remission. I get excited every time I hear that number – 93 percent! It shows how much progress we’ve made toward eliminating childhood cancer, with treatments that are far less toxic than today’s therapies. Adding new sites to our trials will make this progress even faster.
Treating a patient in Los Angeles is the first of what will be several patients at several sites in our ALL trial around the country. This gives a lifeline to families in Southern California and it helps our research team gather information faster on how the therapy works, so we can make it even more effective.
Leukemia is only the beginning. My team is also leading one of the nation’s first clinical trials of immunotherapy for neuroblastoma. And we’re getting close to launching trials for brain tumors, sarcomas and many other cancers that affect children.
I hope that we can offer these trials – and many more – at hospitals nationwide. But I need your help.
Every day, I come to work humbled by the generosity of our amazing community of donors. Through Strong Against Cancer, these donors have raised more than $43 million toward our $100 million goal. This philanthropy helped us establish our own, FDA-approved manufacturing facility to create new therapies – the only pediatric facility west of the Rocky Mountains. It is helping us run the ALL trial that uses this facility to put children in remission. And it helped us bring this therapy to the child in Los Angeles.
Now we’re taking this to the next level by creating Building Cure – a 540,000 square foot research building. Building Cure will help us achieve my original vision, by including a new, larger manufacturing facility that will dramatically increase my team’s capacity to make immunotherapies and run clinical trials.
By making a donation, you can help us complete this facility, expand our trials and bring potential cures to many more children faster. Thank you for your support – it’s incredibly humbling to know that you’re as committed to curing kids as I am. With you on our side, childhood cancer doesn’t stand a chance.
Dr. Mike Jensen
Director, Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research