Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Blog

Behind the Science: Q+A with CHOP Technician Behind Clinical Trial

Filed under: childhood cancer research — The Good Cookies @ 6:53 pm August 15, 2017

Earlier this August, we got to share the incredible story of Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia‘s Dr. Mossé, and the newly launched phase 1 clinical trial from the research of her and her team, funded in part by Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Today, we go behind the science with Dr. Mosse’s Research Technician for a Q+A on their journey to a potentially life changing treatment.

Guest Writer: Nicole Infarinato

Research Focus:  ALK-driven neuroblastoma

Title at Children’s Hospital of Philadeplhia (CHOP):  Research Technician

Why were you interested in this study with Dr. Mosse, and what was it like to work alongside her and her team? I was interested in Dr. Mosse’s research because I wanted to do work that would benefit human health.  In college, I planned to do this by going to medical school, but I soon realized that the best way for me to contribute to medicine was through research.  Dr. Mosse is committed to advancing novel cancer therapies for children, and it was amazing to me how she bridged the space between the bench and the bedside.  When she hired me and asked me to lead this study, I felt so privileged to be part of the process.  I was just as fortunate to work with Dr. Mosse; I can only describe her as an incredible human.  She is a strong, successful, and kind female mentor – a woman in science who truly promotes other women in science.  And my lab mates became some of my closest friends and were critical to this study.  It was a definitely a team effort, and I learned so much from working with them.

How important is pre-clinical work to the overall research? Both basic and pre-clinical research are essential for making progress in understanding and treating cancer.  Pre-clinical research is exciting because it is the final stage of drug discovery that takes place in the laboratory.  We use state-of-the-art cell-based assays and animal models to recapitulate human cancer and evaluate whether a treatment is likely to work for people.  Compelling evidence must be provided in order to move forward and design a clinical trial.

Why is pediatric cancer close to your heart/What was your motivation behind this research? Although we were in a research environment, the lab was intimately linked to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and working in that setting was a constant source of motivation.  I really felt up close to the disease.  On my way to work, I walked past sick children and their families.  In the lab, we received and processed patient tissue samples.  We had an exceptional young student on our team who was a neuroblastoma survivor himself.  I even shadowed Dr. Mosse in the clinic one day, which was a deeply moving experience that I’ll never forget.  I was extremely lucky to grow up with three healthy younger siblings, and they mean everything to me – they are my best friends.  It’s heartbreaking and unfair that families are torn apart by pediatric cancer.  It’s hard to lose motivation when you know your work could potentially change that.

How did you get past potential roadblocks on the journey to this clinical trial? Research can be really frustrating at times.  The learning curve can be steep, there’s a lot of failure, and nature is usually much more complex than you anticipate.  We certainly faced times like this during the project, and it forced me to become more resilient and confident in myself.  We were ultimately successful because we worked as a team to troubleshoot and persevere.  And Dr. Mosse empowers everyone she works with, and her faith in me was deeply encouraging in the face of roadblocks.

What are your hopes for this phase I clinical trial? Dr. Mosse said something in an interview I watched before joining her lab that always stuck with me.  She talked about how conventional cancer drugs are designed for a large group of patients, but they oftentimes make a relatively small difference for them.  She wants to design targeted therapies that will make a big difference, even if for a smaller group of patients.  I hope that this clinical trial will do that for children with neuroblastoma.  Our preclinical work demonstrated that this compound has unprecedented anti-tumor activity, so we are really hoping that children will have significantly improved treatment outcomes.

What would you say to anyone who is thinking about getting involved with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer? Research like ours would not be possible without funding from organizations like Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.  I would encourage everyone to get involved in any way they can and be part of the effort to solve the enormous problem of childhood cancer.  This is a remarkable era for cancer research, and so much progress has already been made to improve therapies and outcomes.  If you contribute to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, you are helping to expedite the process of moving new drugs from the laboratory to children in the clinic.

To read more about the phase 1 clinical trial available to children this month, click here. To donate to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer to fund more critically needed research into treatments for childhood cancer, click here.

photo: Nicole Infarinato







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