The latest advancements in pediatric cancer research for patients in Louisville and Southern Indiana

Every child admitted to Norton Children’s with a cancer diagnosis is evaluated for suitability for a treatment protocol by clinical research nurses who round with physicians.

At any time, Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine, is participating in dozens of clinical trials, representing a wide gamut of diagnoses and moving our understanding of childhood cancers forward.

Norton Children’s Cancer Institute is a member of the Children’s Oncology Group and typically opens the same treatment studies and follows the same research protocols as other research institutions in the group. That means Norton Children’s Cancer Institute is able to offer the same front-line treatments as other leading cancer hospitals.

Also, every child admitted to Norton Children’s Hospital with a cancer diagnosis is evaluated for their suitability for a treatment protocol by  clinical research nurses who round with physicians. Because the clinical research nurses are familiar with all the open trials, they are able to ensure patients are enrolled in the latest research protocols, where it’s appropriate.

Once a child is enrolled in a study, the team at Norton Children’s Cancer Institute follows them for the duration of the study and for up to 10 years after treatment.

Norton Children’s added a third clinical research nurse this year, thanks to a generous gift from Louisville philanthropist Tom Dunbar.

That clinical research nurse will support pediatric hematologists/oncologists Michael Huang, M.D., in his research trial, and William T. Tse, M.D., Ph.D., on next-generation CAR-T cell therapy research. Dr. Tse is director of the Hanna Catherine Evans Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Program at Norton Children’s Hospital.

Research into childhood cancers has led to major breakthroughs such as CAR-T cell therapy.

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To refer a patient to Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, visit Norton EpicLink and choose EpicLink referral to Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

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Norton Children’s Cancer Institute currently offers CAR-T cell therapy for refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). In CAR-T cell therapy, a leukemia patient’s own immune cells are collected and genetically reprogrammed, then reinfused into the patient. The patient’s reprogrammed immune system will then recognize and kill ALL cells that have resisted conventional chemotherapy.

Dr. Tse hopes to bring a clinical trial to Norton Children’s Hospital using CAR-T cell therapy for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), another form of blood cancer that often is difficult to treat. He also is researching CAR-T cell therapy as a potential treatment for solid tumors. These include neuroblastoma and pediatric brain tumors.

Solid tumors have been more of a challenge for researchers, because these tumors often are surrounded by a tissue environment that is unfavorable to CAR-T cells. Nevertheless, technological advances are being made. According to Dr. Tse, it is likely that clinical trials using CAR-T cell therapy to treat solid tumors will be more commonly available in the next three to five years.

In addition to the Children’s Oncology Group, Norton Children’s is also part of the Beat Childhood Cancer Research Consortium.

Jennifer Thomas, DNP, R.N., CENP, is director of patient care services for pediatric hematology, oncology and transplant services at Norton Children’s Cancer Institute.

Cassie Blandford, R.N., BSN, CCRN, is nurse manager for transplant services, oncology research and the blood and marrow transplant lab at Norton Children’s Hospital.


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