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NCI Launches New Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium

  • Posted: April 5, 1999
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) announced today that it has awarded funds for a Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, a network of medical centers that will evaluate promising treatments for children with brain malignancies. The consortium is intended to speed the development of innovative, technically challenging therapies.

NCI will provide a total of $2 million a year for five years to fund the consortium, which consists of nine academic research centers. The institutions will work together to conceive, develop, and carry out pilot studies and early trials of promising new therapies.

While approximately 60 percent of children with brain tumors survive at least five years from the time of diagnosis, this figure has improved only slightly in the past 25 years. However, new treatment possibilities are emerging.

"A wide range of clinical research opportunities exist in childhood brain tumors," said NCI Director Richard Klausner, M.D. "The Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium will be able to take advantage of these opportunities and, by rapidly identifying and evaluating novel treatments, expedite progress toward our ultimate goal, which is improved outcomes for children with brain malignancies."

Emerging strategies for treating brain tumors include new biological therapies and chemotherapy regimens as well as novel neurosurgical procedures and radiation therapy techniques. Among treatments in development are drugs targeted at specific proteins in malignant cells, radiosurgery techniques, drugs that modulate the immune system to fight tumors, new ways of delivering drugs directly to a tumor, and new approaches to gene therapy.

Evaluation of innovative drugs and technologies is difficult for a single institution. "No one children's cancer center sees enough children with brain tumors to conduct timely clinical studies," said Malcolm Smith, M.D., in NCI's Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program. "The new consortium, by involving a number of institutions in joint studies, will be able to evaluate new treatment strategies for children with brain tumors as quickly as can be safely done."

Treatments that appear effective in these initial studies can then move on to larger, definitive trials, such as those conducted through NCI's Clinical Trials Cooperative Groups. These networks of large institutions, community hospitals, and physicians conduct trials throughout the country.

Investigators in the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium will meet later this month to decide on a research agenda and priorities. The consortium is expected to enroll 80 to 100 patients a year in three to four clinical trials, with the first trials opening for enrollment in September.

The 10 centers are: Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Boston; Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.; Baylor College of Medicine, Houston; St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.; The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh; University of California, San Francisco; Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Seattle; Children's National Medical Center, Washington.

The consortium's Operations and Biostatistics Center will be at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn. Headed by James Boyett, Ph.D., the Center will be responsible for data management and analysis and for the administrative aspects of the consortium's trials. The steering committee will be chaired by Peter Phillips, M.D., of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

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Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston
Principal Investigator: Mark Kieran, M.D.
Press Contact: Todd Ringler; (617) 632-5357

Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.
Principal Investigator: Henry Friedman, M.D.
Press Contact: Karen Hines; (919) 684-4148

Baylor College of Medicine, Houston
Principal Investigator: Marc Horowitz, M.D.
Press Contact: Judy Baldwin; (713) 770-4685

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Memphis, Tenn.
Principal Investigator: Larry Kun, M.D.
Press Contact: Deidre Malone; (901) 495-3306

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Principal Investigator: Peter Phillips, M.D.
Press Contact: Sarah Jarvis; (215) 590-4100

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh
Principal Investigator: Ian Pollack, M.D.
Press Contact: Dean Walters; (412) 692-6956

University of California, San Francisco
Principal Investigator: Michael Prados, M.D.
Press Contact: Janet Basu; (415) 502-4608

Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center, Seattle
Principal Investigator: Russell Geyer, M.D.
Press Contact: Dean Forbes; (206) 368-4817

Children's National Medical Center, Washington
Principal Investigator: Roger Packer, M.D.
Press Contacts: Pat Enright; (202) 452-9511; Susan Dell; (202) 884-4500