Cancer Research at Children's Hospital Colorado
Children who participate in clinical trials have better survival rates than children who are not involved in such trials. That’s what makes our Clinical Oncology, Hematology, Neuro-Oncology, BMT and Experimental Therapeutics Research Department, part of Children's Hospital Colorado Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, such an important part of the hospital. Children’s involvement in clinical trials – studies that determine if new drugs or treatments are safe and effective – is crucial to understanding diseases and developing ways to prevent or treat them.
Children’s currently participates in more than 100 clinical trials for cancer and blood disorders funded by grants, pharmaceutical companies and the National Childhood Cancer Foundation. Children's Hospital Colorado Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders is the only hospital in the Rocky Mountain region affiliated with the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), an international organization that conducts research and clinical trials. COG provides National Cancer Institute (NCI) and CureSearch, a division of the National participating institutions, a listing of current trials and is sponsored by the Childhood Cancer Foundation (NCCF). A committee at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine and a Colorado board review and approve trials. Then Children’s Hospital Colorado physicians and the clinical research department decide which trials best serve the children of the Rocky Mountain region.
In addition, Dr. Lia Gore at Children's Hospital Colorado and the University of Colorado co-founded the Pediatric Oncology Experimental Therapeutics Investigators' Consortium (POETIC) in 2003. This 11-member national research consortium promotes early clinical development of promising therapies for the treatment of children, adolescents and young adults with cancer and related disorders.
How to enroll
To be enrolled in a trial, patients and families must agree to participate and the patient must meet specific eligibility requirements. Clinical trials have treatment plans called protocols. All patients on the trial at all institutions must receive the same treatment. Clinical trial protocols for children often are more aggressive than adult protocols, with higher dosages of chemotherapy given at more frequent intervals.
Data is submitted and analyzed throughout the study. Once a trial is complete, statisticians analyze data and decide which protocol is best for a specific disease. That therapy then becomes the standard treatment for children with that disease. Over the years, clinical trials have made tremendous strides in improving outcomes for children with cancer. Childrens’ survival rates correlate with the level of participation in clinical trials.
Younger children are much more likely to be enrolled in clinical trials, and research shows that younger children have better outcomes. For example, 60% of infants to four-year-olds with cancer are enrolled in clinical trials worldwide, as opposed to just 10% of adolescents 15 to 19 years old. Also, just 22% of 15- to 19-year-olds are treated in pediatric facilities such as a children’s hospital or even at an adult hospital that participates in clinical trials.
There is a lack of improvement in survival for young adolescents and adults as compared to younger children and it appears to be directly related to enrollment in clinical trials. To decrease the disparity, Children’s Colorado is opening more clinical trials to adolescents and young adults; there is even a trial for patients up to age 50. Extensive research supports that it is better for a 16-year-old to come to Children’s Colorado for treatment than to go to an adult hospital.