LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Arkansas Children’s Hospital will be the first in the nation to offer its young patients a new form of treatment for acute leukemia, beginning this month.
The treatment is a master clinical trial of the Pediatric Acute Leukemia (PedAL) screening, by the national Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The program is designed to expedite the development of targeted treatments for childhood leukemia, as opposed to a fixed, one-size standard treatment regimen for those afflicted.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society launched the trial and partnered with Arkansas Children’s Hospital to be the first therapeutic site.
Before enrolling in therapeutic trials, parents may enroll a child in the PedAL screening trial to identify the unique tumor biology of each child’s cancer and help them identify the most promising treatment for their specific type of leukemia.
Arkansas children fighting leukemia will have access to PedAL’s therapeutic trial at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, and patients will be able to enroll in the screening trial and have follow-ups at Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale.
Through the support of the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute, Arkansas Children’s Hospital can quickly initiate important clinical trials.
“PedAL will be a paradigm-changing clinical study and will provide so much hope for families of children with relapsed and hard-to-treat leukemias,” Dr. Jason Farrar, a PedAL investigator and director of the leukemia and lymphoma program at Arkansas Children’s said.
Farrar is also an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and a member of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.
“Kids are not little adults. They need safe and effective cancer treatments developed specifically for them, which is what PedAL is doing,” he said.
The trial will also bring advancements in cancer care for Arkansas children.
“Keeping these children near their homes and families during cancer care is crucial,” Farrar said. “By offering this trial, we are giving kids with leukemias more opportunities to not only survive, but truly thrive.”
Currently, 69% of children with acute myeloid leukemia survive more than five years. Those who are treated successfully have ongoing health issues 70% of the time, with 42% of those successfully treated developing a life-threatening complication within 30 years of their initial diagnosis. Additional complications come by the nature of blood cancers, which are more prevalent in adults, leading to an overall emphasis in treatment development away from children.
PedAL trials address this. The partnership between Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the Leukemia & Lymphoma foundation extends past those two organizations to include the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, Children’s Oncology Group and the European Pediatric Acute Leukemia Foundation, allowing trial availability to the global community.
Multiple screening trial sites are open in Canada and the United States. More therapeutic sites will open throughout 2022 and into the next year. In partnership with the University of Chicago, the Data Commons will consolidate pediatric clinical trial data from multiple institutions into a single, unified data set to ensure consistency in data collection, analysis and reporting.
In addition, GEARBOx (Genomic Eligibility Algorithm at Relapse for Better Outcomes) is a unique search tool that will help healthcare professionals match patients who have relapsed or refractory disease to appropriate clinical trials and lifesaving treatments.
By enrolling their child in a screening trial, parents help advance research for all children because their child’s tumor biology results will be assessed alongside children around the globe to help researchers find patterns. Parents who want to learn more can visit LLS.org or call 1-800-955-4572 to reach the Information Resource Center.