Clinical Trials Corner: Exploring New Treatments for Pediatric Cancer Patients Pediatric D e B B I e VO G e L and young adult patients who have Hodgkin lymphoma that has come back or is resistant to initial treatment can achieve remission and even cure with secondary treatments such as gemcitabine-based chemotherapies followed by a stem cell transplant. Investigators from the Children’s Oncology Group, including Richard Drachtman, MD (below), clinical section chief of pediatric hematology/oncology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, examined the safety and response rate of two chemotherapy drugs – gemcitabine and brentuximab vedotin – when combined. Dr. Drachtman, who is also a professor of pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, shares more: outcomes as part of clinical research that helps guide advancements in treatment options. Her surgical expertise is in both traditional open methods as well as in minimally invasive techniques. “What I love most about the field of endocrine surgery is that there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the care of my patients – an individualized treatment plan is developed for each patient and their tumor type,” notes Dr. Laird. Dr. Laird serves on several committees for both the American Association of endocrine Surgeons and the Association of Academic Surgeons. Her clinical research has yielded peer-reviewed publications, reviews, book chapters, and both national and international presentations. I Why examine this particular combination? Q: was four, 21-day cycles. Patients were evaluated after every two cycles. A: We already know that nine percent of patients with Hodgkin lymphoma will have a complete response when treated with gemcitabine. For those with Hodgkin lymphoma that is resistant to initial therapy or has recurred, 34 percent will have their cancer disappear when treated with brentuximab vedotin. We hypothesized that by combining these two treatments, we would see the cancer disappear in at least 60 percent of these patients. N ICK ROMAN eN KO Q: What did you find? A: Out of 40 patients that could be evaluated, 23 had their cancer disappear within four cycles of treatment. Out of those 23, 19 patients had a complete response after two cycles of treatment. Overall a 68 percent complete re- sponse rate was seen, which greatly exceeds complete response rates of gemcitabine and brentuximab vedotin when given individually. Q: How was the study structured? A: Between April 2013 and August 2016, 42 patients aged 30 or younger were enrolled (median age 17.4 years) in a clinical trial at Rutgers Cancer Institute and other locations. Thirty-five patients had primary refractory disease or very early relapse. Participants were given gemcitabine and brentuximab vedotin along with a glycoprotein that stimulates stem cell growth. The median duration of therapy Q: What are the implications of these findings? A: These findings support further examination of this treatment combination. Results of future clinical trials testing these agents could lead to the development of new therapy options for this patient population. I The work was presented as part of a poster presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting in June. is published by Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey’s Office of Communications and Public Affairs 195 Little Albany Street • New Brunswick New Jersey • 08903 Phone: 732- 235-7940 • cinj.org Director of Communications and Public Affairs / executive editor: Candace e. Botnick, MS Managing editor / Writer: Michele Fisher Contributing Writer: Mary Ann Littell Cover Photo: Jody Somers Design: Barbara Walsh Graphic Design For more information on cancer clinical trials offered at Rutgers Cancer Institute, visit cinj.org/clinical-trials. Summer 2017 I Cancer Connection I 5