Child Health, News Ben Brown | 7 years ago

Groundbreaking Clinical Trials at Levine Children’s Hospital Push the Envelope of Science in Pediatric Cancer

Javier Oesterheld, MD, pediatric oncologist at Levine Children’s Hospital, is on the forefront of creating one of the best Developmental Therapeutics Program (DVL) programs in the country.  The DVL program at the Torrence E. Hemby, Jr. Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Center at Levine Children’s Hospital develops, researches and delivers new Phase I and II clinical trials locally, ultimately allowing for all patients and families to receive the compassionate cancer care they need, close to home. Dr. Oesterheld, director of the DVL program at Levine Children’s Hospital, provides patients with the most novel and cutting edge clinical trials available in the country through national consortiums, industry sponsored trials and investigator initiated trials. The program has grown considerably in five years and currently has over 10 clinical trials and all tumor types are represented. The rapid growth of the program, complemented by the respected work of Dr. Oesterheld and his colleagues, is attracting patients regionally, nationally and internationally. “Our cancer research is developing in a very positive direction- we are offering more trials than ever before and now we’ve taken it to the next level by having several of those trials chaired by physicians from Levine Children’s Hospital,” said Dr. Oesterheld. In addition to expanding at a rate of 50 percent each year, there are several studies taking place at Levine Children’s Hospital that are only offered at a few select sites across the country, which speaks to the high level of quality and outcomes of the hospital. Levine Children’s Hospital is now part of the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium, (NMTRC) a group of 18 universities and children’s hospitals that offer a nationwide network of childhood cancer trials. These trials are based on the research from a group of closely collaborating investigators who are connected with laboratory programs that develop new therapies for high-risk neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma. “With the personalized medicine protocol from NMTRC, we have been able to offer patients from across the country the possibility of enrolling in this remarkable trial where we use the patient’s own tumor to make an individualized chemotherapy plan,” said Dr. Oesterheld. Levine Children’s Hospital is one of a limited number of institutions in the country to offer this personalized medicine study. “We are currently investigating new agents for relapsed solid tumors that have not been used in pediatrics before and hope to have those investigations completed in 12-18 months,” said Dr. Oesterheld. Also on the horizons for Levine Children’s Hospital are several novel studies looking at different ways to treat relapsed solid tumors such as osteogenic sarcoma, rhabdomyosarcoma, and Ewing’s sarcoma, among others. Dr. Oesterheld’s dedication to improving the DVL program is outstanding- recently he was one of just 13 physicians in the country to receive the Hyundai Hope On Wheels Young Investigators Clinical Award of $75,000. “I am very proud to say our program is completely funded by philanthropic support as this allows us to run trials that other groups cannot run due to financial constraints,” said Dr. Oesterheld. “I chose this specialty because of the amazing patients and families and their fight is incredible. The ability to work with all specialties to come up with a plan for one patient is very satisfying and I enjoy the evolving field and needing to stay current,” said Dr. Oesterheld. The award was officially presented during the Hope On Wheels signature Handprint Ceremony at Levine Children’s Hospital on July 9th. At the ceremony, Charlotte-area children affected by cancer dipped their hands in colorful paint and placed their handprints on the official vehicle of Hope On Wheels to commemorate their brave battles with cancer. “I believe the best thing we offer is amazing opportunities in a family centered environment with a dedicated team that only care about one thing, which is taking care of the patient.” Hyundai and its dealers joined the fight against pediatric cancer in 1998. Now in its 16th year, Hope On Wheels remains committed to helping children fight this disease through funding life-saving research and innovative treatments. This year, Hope On Wheels will award 13 Hyundai Young Investigators Clinical Awards and 36 Hyundai Scholar Hope Grants totaling $13 million to institutions across the country. In 2014, Hope On Wheels will surpass $86 million in donations to pediatric cancer institutions nationwide since its inception.