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About Sickkids
About SickKids

April 11, 2013

Dr. Michael Taylor joins ‘Dream Team’ of childhood cancer researchers

The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is one of seven paediatric centres to join an international ‘Dream Team’ of researchers focused on creating new treatments for childhood cancers. The $14.5 million grant was announced on April 7 in Washington, DC at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting.

SickKids scientist and neurosurgeon, Dr. Michael D. Taylor, is one of the Principal Investigators on the Stand Up To Cancer-St. Baldrick’s Pediatric Cancer ‘Dream Team’ and is leading the project at SickKids.

Paediatric cancer care has made a lot of progress in the 20th century; however over the last 20 years little has changed to revolutionize the treatment. The standard therapy for children with cancer is relatively the same for each patient. It includes nonspecific therapies such as surgery, radiation and aggressive chemotherapy and, unfortunately, comes with some side effects.

“To improve the survival and quality of life of our patients, we need to come up with new and more specific and individual ways to treat their cancer,” says Dr. Taylor.

The field of cancer genomics has made huge strides toward better understanding the genetic basis of some of the most aggressive childhood cancers. In fact, some of Dr. Taylor’s research on medulloblastoma has changed the way we look at the disease and has fostered other international collaborations. However, more research needs to be done on how to personalize treatment.

The goal of the Dream Team is to bring together cancer genetics and immunotherapeutics – two areas that have traditionally operated independently – to rapidly translate promising basic research into targeted treatments, all in an effort to ultimately improve the survival rates in childhood cancer. They are taking a three step approach: first the team will create a multi-institutional computing infrastructure to analyze the genomes of paediatric cancer patients to determine which molecules on the cancer cells’ surface could be potential treatment targets. Next, they will create and test immunotherapeutic drugs to target these molecules while leaving the normal molecules unharmed.  Lastly, the third step is to conduct multi-institutional clinical trials in children with cancer.

“In the past there has been very little interaction between cancer genomicists and cancer immunotherapists.   Funding from SU2C will allow us to maximize the impact of all the genomics currently underway in childhood cancer, and used to rapidly design more effective cancer immunotherapies,” says Dr. Taylor.  

The Dream Team is comprised of researchers from seven institutions: SickKids, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), National Cancer Institute (NCI), the Baylor College of Medicine, Seattle Children’s Hospital, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Wisconsin. The team will have $14.5 million in funding over four years from Stand Up to Cancer and St. Baldrick’s.