Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology: Identifying novel therapeutic agents using xenograft models of pediatric cancer

Raushan T. Kurmasheva & Peter J. Houghton


In the USA, the overall cure rate for all childhood cancers is seventy percent, and in many patients that ultimately fail curative therapy, initial responses to current multimodality treatments (surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy) are good, with overall 5-year event-free survival approaching 80 %. However, current approaches to curative therapy result in significant morbidity and long-term sequelae, including cardiac dysfunction and cognitive impairment. Furthermore, dose-intensive chemotherapy with conventional agents has not significantly improved outcomes for patients that present with advanced or metastatic disease. Classical cytotoxic agents remain the backbone for curative therapy of both hematologic and solid tumors of childhood. While ‘molecularly’ targeted agents have shown some clinical activity, responses are often modest and of short duration; hence, there is a need to identify new classes of cytotoxic agents that are effective in patients at relapse and that have reduced or different toxicity profiles to normal tissues. Here we review the pediatric preclinical testing program experience of testing novel agents and the value and limitations of preclinical xenograft models and genetically engineered mouse models for developing novel agents for the treatment of childhood cancer.

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