Michigan precision medicine program for kids with cancer is going global – now provides full RNA sequencing of the tumor


From Mlive.com By Sue Thoms

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Somewhere in Lebanon, a child battling an incurable cancer soon will undergo a biopsy.

The tumor sample will be shipped by a special courier to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. The genomic makeup will be analyzed, and the results shared with oncologists at 20 U.S. hospitals.

Then, the doctors will come together in an online meeting to help the child’s physician choose a treatment tailored to the unique genetic makeup of the tumor.

Precision medicine for kids with cancer is going global, and a clinical trials program based in Grand Rapids is leading the way.

The research program added its first international partner March 2, when it expanded to include the American University of Beirut. A hospital in Marseille, France, is expected to join the consortium soon. And discussions are underway with an institution in India.

The first year, the trial involved 14 children with relapsed neuroblastoma, a cancer of the peripheral nervous system that usually affects young children. Positive results – stabilization or shrinking of a tumor – were seen in 64 percent, according to a study published online in February in the journal Cancer Medicine.

The trial expanded to include 50 children last year and encompasses all forms of pediatric cancer deemed incurable. The goal is to enroll another 50 children this year, including about five in Lebanon. The program also has progressed in its analysis of the tumors. Initially, it involved only messenger RNA sequencing, and now it provides full DNA and full RNA sequencing of the tumor.

The program has drawn children from all over the U.S. and internationally. Families from Ireland, England and Australia have inquired or brought their children to the U.S. for treatment.

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