UA Steele Children's Research Center Participates in First Pediatric Clinical Trial for Innovative Cancer Drug

Researchers at The University of Arizona Steele Children's Research Center are exploring less toxic ways to treat children with cancer.

Researchers at The University of Arizona Steele Children's Research Center are exploring less toxic ways to treat children with cancer. Rochelle Bagatell, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics and her colleagues at the Steele Center are investigating the anticancer effects of 17AAG (17-allylamino-geldanamycin)-a pediatric cancer drug. Luke Whitesell, MD, UA professor of pediatrics, completed the work that allowed scientists to understand how the drug works.

The clinical trial is in collaboration with nine other academic medical centers across the nation, including Johns Hopkins University, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and MD Anderson Cancer Center, among others. It is now in the first of three research phases required for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

"Unlike traditional chemotherapy, this drug specifically targets cancer cells," says Dr. Bagatell. "Since chemotherapy affects all cells in the body, patients feel terribly sick and have many negative side effects such as hair loss, vomiting, nausea and fatigue. If drugs likes 17AAG prove successful, children receiving chemotherapy will experience fewer side effects and less damage to their vital organs."

The study now is in Phase 1-a study to determine how much can be tolerated by the patient. Phase 1 trials typically are small, recruiting about 30 patients. "So far, we have enrolled 12 children in this trial," says Dr. Bagatell. For many children whose cancer has progressed despite standard therapies, a Phase 1 clinical trial offers some hope to families who have no other options. "Families who may have had to travel across the country to participate in this kind of study, now have access right here in Tucson," says Dr. Bagatell.

The 17AAG clinical trial is funded in part by proceeds raised from the annual Raise a Racquet for Kids tennis tournament. The Fourth Annual Raise a Racquet for Kids will take place Oct. 14-15 and is an opportunity for the entire community to help children with cancer during a weekend of fun at the Tucson Racquet and Fitness Club, 4001 N. Country Club. The cost of the Friday night dinner and family activities is $25 for adults and $10 for children over the age of 12. Dinner and tennis Saturday is $50. Pre-registration is required and fees are not tax-deductible.

To register, or learn more about Raise A Racquet for Kids, please visit www.rark.org, or call (520) 626-7051 or (520) 235-7809