Drs Houghton & Kurmasheva to Receive NCI Pediatric In Vivo Testing Program (PIVOT), U01 Renewal

NCI Pediatric In Vivo Testing Program (U01), renewal for the previous PPTC (Pediatric Preclinical Testing Consortium).

Grant period:            July 2021-June 2026.
Total dollar amount:  $2,500,000 over 5 years.

Cancer in children is rare with approximately 15,700 new cases diagnosed annually in children 21 years or younger in the U.S. Through the use of multimodality therapy (surgery, radiation therapy, and aggressive chemotherapy), 70% of patients will be ‘cured’ of their disease, and 5-year Event-Free Survival (EFS) exceeds 80%. Consequently, the number of patients that can be enrolled in phase I/II clinical trials is small, and most patients will have been extensively treated, hence drug/radiation resistance. Thus, preclinical studies that accurately translate into effective clinical therapy are an essential component of pediatric drug development. Our group has contributed to studies in the PPTP/C that have led to clinical studies through the Children’s Oncology Group (COG). Of importance, we have developed and characterized over 330 Patient-Derived Xenografts (PDX), developed from tumors both at diagnosis and relapse, that can be used to facilitate pediatric drug development as directed by FDA under the Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity for Children Act (RACE for Children Act). Based on our studies, both in and outside the PPTC, we propose to use PDX/CDX models of sarcoma, kidney cancer, and hepatoblastoma derived from high-risk patients to identify novel agents and combinations, and to test at least 8-10 agents per year, for which we have expertise. We will explore specific hypotheses to integrate molecular-targeted agents with conventional chemo-radiation treatment, advanced drug delivery systems (antibody-drug conjugates, nanoparticles), and the use of Single Mouse Testing (SMT) as the primary screening approach. In collaborative studies, we will evaluate a new humanized mouse model where testing of immuno-oncology agents is a priority to treat these PDX models. One of the objective limitations of PPTP/C testing was that relatively few tumor models representing a specific disease (n=3-8/disease) could be used within the resource constraints, a number clearly insufficient to recapitulate the genetic/epigenetic heterogeneity of each clinical disease. Our retrospective analysis of PPTP data, and recent prospective testing in the PPTC, shows that a single mouse/tumor line gives essentially similar data to conventional testing’ (using 10 mice/group for each tumor line). The advantage of the SMT design is that it allows for the incorporation of up to 20-fold more models, more accurately representing the genetic/epigenetic diversity of each pediatric cancer within the same resource constraints. The proposed studies will adopt SMT as the primary screening approach to identify agents that have biologically meaningful activity (i.e. large antitumor effects) and identify tumors that are ‘exceptional responders’ for validation. The SMT approach, when linked to the molecular characterization of PDX models, potentially increases the power to identify biomarkers associated with response. Using SMT we can essentially conduct preclinical phase II trials and simulate the likely clinical response rate more accurately for a given disease. As part of the Ped-In Vivo-TP, we aim to develop highly effective, less toxic therapies for high-risk cancers that afflict children and adolescents/young adults (AYA)

Jackson Laboratory Press Release: “Kids with Cancer Can’t Wait”

About Houghton Lab

About Kurmasheva Lab


Since 2004, UT Health San Antonio, Greehey Children’s Cancer Research Institute’s (Greehey CCRI) mission has been to advance scientific knowledge relevant to childhood cancer, contribute to the understanding of its causes, and accelerate the translation of knowledge into novel therapies. Through discovery, development, and dissemination of new scientific knowledge, Greehey CCRI strives to have a national and global impact on childhood cancer. Our mission consists of three key areas — research, clinical, and education.

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