Create a Pediatric Immunotherapy Discovery and Development Network (PI-DDN)

NCI has announced several funding opportunities that align with the Cancer Moonshot.

See Funding Opportunities

Immunotherapy leverages the ability of the immune system to recognize and destroy infected, damaged, and transformed cells. This type of cancer treatment enhances the activity of immune cells to attack tumors. While immunotherapeutic approaches have been used to successfully treat a limited number of childhood cancers, particularly leukemia and neuroblastoma, there are currently no effective immunotherapy options for most patients with high-risk or difficult-to-treat childhood cancers.

There are a number of barriers to the development of immunotherapies for childhood cancers. Unlike many adult tumors, many childhood cancers express few or no markers that can be recognized by the immune system. Similarly, many immunotherapies target specific markers that are expressed in adult cancers but not childhood cancers. Tumors of childhood cancer patients can also develop a microenvironment that suppresses immunity and reduces the effectiveness of immunotherapies.

This recommendation is aimed at creating a pediatric immunotherapy science network that will focus on a collaborative effort in determining targets for immunotherapies and developing and testing new treatment approaches – including cancer vaccines, cellular therapy, and combinations of immunotherapy and other forms of therapy.

Ultimately, the hope is to develop new immunotherapies and improve the effectiveness of current immunotherapy treatments to reduce the burden of cancer in children.

NCI has awarded funding to several research projects that align with the panel's recommendation to address immunotherapy in children:

The Pediatric Immunotherapy Discovery and Development Network (PI-DDN)

This collaborative network is identifying and advancing translational immunotherapy research for children and adolescents with cancer. The network is working to discover and characterize new targets for immunotherapies, design experimental models to test the effectiveness of pediatric immunotherapies, develop new immunotherapy treatments, and improve the understanding of tumor immunity in pediatric cancer patients. This network is also working to overcome major barriers in developing effective immunotherapies for children, such as lower expression of proteins that can be recognized by immune cells and the immunosuppressive environments of tumors in some pediatric cancers. Investigators in the PI-DDN are working together on multicomponent research studies centered around a pediatric cancer research area and individual pediatric immunotherapy projects. The goal of the network is to advance pediatric immunotherapies to treat children and adolescents with high-risk cancers.

Pediatric Immunotherapy Projects Awarded Cancer Moonshot Funding

Awarded Projects
Funding Opportunity Project Title Institution Principal Investigator(s)
Pediatric Immunotherapy Discovery and Development Network (PI-DDN) (U01) Multispecific Targeting Incorporating Cytokine Receptor Pathways in High Risk Pediatric Acute Leukemias to Improve Durability of Adoptive Cell Therapy-Induced Remissions University of Colorado Denver Fry, Terry J; Tasian, Sarah Kathleen
Combinations of Synergistic Bispecific Human Antibodies: A Novel Strategy for the Treatment of Neuroblastoma Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Olson, James M; Mehlin, Christopher
Dual Targeting of Tumoral Microenvironment and Tumoral Cells by Blocking the Il-33/St2 Pathway Indiana University - Purdue University at Indianapolis Paczesny, Sophie; Cheung, Nai-Kong V
Cassette Exons in Neoplastic Pro-B-Cells: Implications for Immunotherapy Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Thomas-Tikhonenko, Andrei; Barash, Yoseph
Metabolic Reprogramming of Tumor Microenvironment to Maximize Immunotherapy for Pediatric Cancers Research Institute Nationwide Children's Hospital Wang, Ruoning
Pediatric Immunotherapy Discovery and Development Network (PI-DDN) (U54) Discovery and Development of Optimal Immunotherapeutic Strategies for Childhood Cancers Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Maris, John M; Mackall, Crystal
Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network (CITN) (UM1) Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network Central Operations And Statistical Center Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Cheever, Martin Alexander
  • Updated: November 5, 2018

If you would like to reproduce some or all of this content, see Reuse of NCI Information for guidance about copyright and permissions. In the case of permitted digital reproduction, please credit the National Cancer Institute as the source and link to the original NCI product using the original product's title; e.g., “Create a Pediatric Immunotherapy Discovery and Development Network (PI-DDN) was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.”

We welcome your comments on this post. All comments must follow our comment policy.