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What is the developmental therapeutics program?

Bringing new anticancer drugs to patients, that’s the goal of the doctors, nurses and researchers working at Texas Children’s Developmental Therapeutics Program. This process involves laboratory research to discover new targets for treatment, as well as clinical research to learn about the safety, side effects and anticancer activity of new agents. The Developmental Therapeutics Program mainly conducts Phase 1 Studies. These studies are often the first time a new drug is used in children, so safety is our primary concern. We watch the patients very closely for any side effects and work hand in hand with families and referring physicians to ensure optimal care for each child.

Our program is involved in a broad range of research covering the entire spectrum of cancer drug development. Some of our investigators study children’s tumors, looking for genes or other molecular targets that could match drugs already being used in adults. Other researchers are testing completely new compounds to see if they inhibit pediatric tumors in the laboratory. A number of Developmental Therapeutics investigators are national leaders in designing the proper type of protocol to give new drugs as safely as possible to children. We participate in national groups like the Children’s Oncology Group Phase 1 Consortium and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium. We are also one of only four Alex’s Lemonade Stand Centers of Excellence in Developmental Therapeutics nationwide. The goals of this special program are to bring new treatments to the clinic faster and to train the next generation of leaders in pediatric cancer drug development.

Most children with cancer in the United States are cured by current therapies. However, the cancer in some children is not successfully treated or comes back after initial treatment. For these children, participation in a Developmental Therapeutics study may be an opportunity to try a new drug. Children and their families also benefit from a comprehensive evaluation of possible alternatives. It is important to explore the child’s and family’s goals and the available therapies to ensure the family is making an informed decision about treatment.

The Developmental Therapeutics Program at Texas Children’s sees about 50 to 100 patients per year, including patients who received their initial treatment at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, as well as those who are referred or travel from other centers. For families from out of town we coordinate with our social workers and financial counselors to assist with travel and other resources if needed.

To learn more about the Developmental Therapeutics Program at Texas Children’s, please visit here.

Dr. Stacey Berg, Pediatric Oncologist