Team Jack Awards Funding to Dr. Ashley Plant for DIPG Phase 1 Clinical Trial

Team Jack Awards Funding to Dr. Ashley Plant for DIPG Phase 1 Clinical Trial

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Team Jack Foundation has awarded a $325,000 research grant over three years for a Phase I Clinical Trial studying the combination of personalized genomic information with immunotherapy. The Principal Investigator on the project is Dr. Ashley Plant, who is transitioning from Children's Hospital Orange County to Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago. The Co-Principal Investigator is Dr. Susan Chi of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. This trial will be available at Children's Hospital Orange County, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as well as Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago initially with the goal of expanding to additional sites in a Phase II study.

"I am so excited to work with the Team Jack Foundation! Pediatric brain tumor research would not happen without the support of our families and Foundations like the Team Jack Foundation who are willing to help us fight for the rare and incurable diseases impacting our pediatric patients. It means so much to be able to do this type of research and provide hope for our amazing brain tumor patients and families. During this critical time in health care where we are fighting COVID-19 and its potential impacts on our immunosuppressed population, it was an overwhelming experience to get such great news of our project being funded by the Team Jack Foundation. Thank you for all you do and for being a light in a dark time," stated Dr. Plant.

According to Dr. Plant, this trial has the potential to extend survival rates for patients who are diagnosed with DIPG, the deadliest form of child brain cancer.  We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Plant who summarize her project and why this could be life changing for kids with DIPG.

What will this trial do for kids with brain tumors?
Dr. Plant: 
This trial will provide an opportunity for newly diagnosed patients with DIPG or diffuse midline glioma to enroll in a phase 1 clinical trial evaluating a novel vaccine therapy in combination with checkpoint inhibition. They will not have to wait until their child's tumor recurs or relapses and they can start after radiation therapy. The hope is that this treatment combination will provide extended survival or relapse-free period for patients with these devastating diagnoses. 

What makes this trial difference from other trials?
Dr. Plant: This is a phase 1 clinical trial looking at the combination of a novel neo-antigen specific heat shock protein vaccine (rHSC-DIPGVax) in combination with checkpoint blockade for the treatment of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). The vaccine is specific to the "markers" or mutations seen in DIPG and a similar entity known as diffuse midline glioma which will help train the immune system to attack and kill the tumor. We are also combining the vaccine with checkpoint inhibitors which "turn off the brakes" on the immune system so it can mount a more robust anti-tumor response. This will also be an upfront trial after radiation which we hope will give us more time for the treatment to have a positive impact on the disease process and also utilizes the antigen (or "marker") exposure that results after radiation therapy. Overall, this is a novel therapy which will address combination immunotherapy and tumor-specific targeting and also take advantage of the immuno-modulatory effects of radiation therapy. 

Why are you excited about this trial?
Dr. Plant: I'm excited for the potential impacts of immunotherapy on the brain tumor population as a whole who otherwise experience devastating long term sequelae of radiation and chemotherapy including neurocognitive delay, endocrinopathies, infertility, hearing loss, etc. 

Pediatric brain tumor research would not happen without the support of our families and Foundations like the Team Jack Foundation who are willing to help us fight for the rare and incurable diseases impacting our pediatric patients. It means so much to be able to do this type of research and provide hope for our amazing brain tumor patients and families. -Dr. Ashley Plant, Principal Investigator

The mission of the Team Jack Foundation is to fund impactful childhood brain cancer research and raise national awareness for the disease. However, the Foundation works with over 60 families that have been affected by childhood brain cancer and serves a resource connecting families with one another. A number of the families connected with Team Jack have lost their children to DIPG. The five-year survival rate for this tumor type is less than 1% and according to Monica Waggoner, mother of Nate who passed away in 2010 from DIPG, "it's basically a death sentence." Funding DIPG research may be more important than any other type because this tumor is widely known as "untreatable". According to the National Cancer Institute, diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a rare, fast-growing tumor that forms in cells called glial cells in a part of the brain stem called the pons. DIPGs tend to spread to nearby tissue and other parts of the brain stem, are hard to treat, and have a poor prognosis (outcome). They usually occur in children. 

We are vested in finding a cure for DIPG as well as all types of childhood brain cancer. For updates on this project and all Team Jack funded research visit www.teamjackfoundation.org/research

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