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Immunotherapy

St. Jude is developing one of the largest immunotherapy research programs in the United States. At the Center of Excellence for Pediatric Immuno-Oncology, our scientists and doctors work to expand and improve immunotherapies for childhood cancers. 

Interior photo of center at St. Jude

Immunotherapy uses the immune system to treat diseases such as cancer. The immune system includes special white blood cells, tissues, and organs that work together to prevent and get rid of disease.

Immunotherapy at St. Jude

Immunotherapy is a type of biological therapy that uses the immune system to find and remove unhealthy or damaged cells, including cancer cells. Your child’s health care team may combine immunotherapy with treatments such as chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant to kill cancer more effectively.

Immunotherapy at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital comes in different forms and works in separate ways. Some kinds of immunotherapy make the overall immune system stronger. Other types of immunotherapies make a person’s immune system work better against a specific disease.

St. Jude is developing one of the largest immunotherapy research programs in the United States. At the Center of Excellence for Pediatric Immuno-Oncology, our scientists and doctors work to expand and improve immunotherapies for childhood cancers. They develop treatments for some of the toughest childhood diseases, including brain and solid tumors.

Immunotherapy includes treatments such as:

  • Antibodies: Small molecules that help the immune system find and destroy cancer cells
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors: Drugs that help immune cells kill better
  • Cytokines: Proteins made by the body that increase or decrease the immune response
  • Cancer-treatment vaccines: Tumor-based vaccines that train the immune system to find and attack cancer cells
  • Adoptive cell transfer, including chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy: Increases, and sometimes trains, the number of immune cells that can find and kill cancer cells

CAR T-cell therapies target a specific molecule on the surface of a cancer cell. CAR T-cell therapy got its start in a St. Jude lab many years ago. It has changed treatment for patients with certain types of advanced leukemia and lymphoma.

Diseases treated with immunotherapy at St. Jude

Immunotherapies treat several childhood cancers, including:

  • Certain types of leukemia that have returned or have not responded to therapy
  • Certain types of lymphoma that have returned or have not responded to treatment
  • Solid tumors
  • Brain tumors, including diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG)

Immunotherapy clinical trials

Recruiting
ANGIO-A: Cyclophosphamide, Sorafenib, Bevacizumab, and Atezolizumab in Pediatric Solid Tumors

Study goal:

In Part 1 of this study, we will see if sorafenib, cyclophosphamide, bevacizumab, and atezolizumab can be given safely together without causing serious side effects. Part 2 of the study will find out how well these medicines work in hepatocellular carcinoma, fibrolamellar carcinoma, desmoplastic small round cell tumors, and malignant rhabdoid tumors.

Diagnosis:

Solid tumors, hepatocellular carcinoma, fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma, sarcomas, malignant rhabdoid tumors, desmoplastic small round cell tumors

Age:

1-30 years old

Recruiting
3CAR: B7-H3-specific CAR T-cell Therapy for Children and Young Adults with Solid Tumors

Study goal:

The main purpose of 3CAR is to find out if this type of immunotherapy is safe for pediatric patients with solid tumors. We also want to learn if it is effective in fighting solid tumors.

Diagnosis:

Solid Tumor

Age:

Up to 21 years old

Recruiting
ANBL1821: Eflornithine with Chemo-Immunotherapy for Children with Advanced Neuroblastoma

Study goal:

The main purpose of this study is to find out the good and bad effects of eflornithine combined with irinotecan, temozolomide, and dinutuximab in children and young adults with relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma.

Diagnosis:

Neuroblastoma

Age:

At least 1 year old

Recruiting
CATCHAML: CAR T-Cell Therapy for Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML)

Study goal:

The main purpose of this study is to find the highest dose of CD123-CAR T cells that is safe to give patients with AML.  We also want to study the side effects of the treatment and learn how effective it is in fighting this type of cancer.

Age:

21 years old or younger

Recruiting
PBTC45: MK-3475 in Treating Children with Recurrent, Progressive or Refractory HGGs, DIPGs and Hypermutated Brain Tumors

Study goal:

To study the side effects and best dose of MK-3475 (pembrolizumab) and to see how well it works in treating younger patients with high-grade gliomas (brain tumors), diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas (brain stem tumors), or hypermutated brain tumors that have come back, progressed or have not responded to previous treatment

Diagnosis:

Recurrent, progressive, or refractory high-grade gliomas

Age:

Participant is 1 to 18 years of age

Recruiting
MEMCAR19: Allogeneic CAR T-Cell Therapy for Relapsed/Refractory CD19-Positive Leukemia

Study goal:

The main goal of this study is to learn the largest dose of memory CAR T cells that can be safely given. Researchers also want to learn about the way memory CAR T cells act in the body and how effectively they treat this type of cancer.

Age:

Donor: At least 19 years old; Recipient: 21 years or younger

Recruiting
DIRECT70: CAR T–Cell Therapy for Children with Blood Malignancies

Study goal:

The purpose of this study is to find the highest dose of CD70+ CAR cells that is safe to give to patients with CD70+ blood cancers.

Diagnosis:

ALL, AML, MDS, Lymphoma

Age:

Up to 21 years old

Recruiting
Loc3CAR: B7-H3-Specific CAR T-Cell Therapy for Children with Primary CNS Tumors

Study goal:

The purpose of this study is to find: 1) the largest dose of Loc3CAR T cells that is safe to give patients with B7-H3–positive brain tumors; 2) the side effects of Loc3CAR T cells; 3) the effect Loc3CAR T cells have on brain tumors. This trial will help scientists better understand how the immune system fights this kind of tumor. What we learn from this study could help us create better treatments.

Diagnosis:

Brain tumorsDIPG, DMG

Age:

Up to 21 years old


Why St. Jude for immunotherapy

  • St. Jude is the first and only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted just to children.
  • St. Jude practices patient family-centered care. Patient family-centered care is health care that focuses on the family as a child’s primary source of strength, support, and well-being.
  • Children receiving CAR T-cell therapy are cared for by the St. Jude Transplant Program. The program is accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT) for transplantation and immunotherapy.
  • The Transplant Unit at St. Jude specializes in the care of patients receiving transplants or immunotherapy.

Immunotherapy team

Our immunotherapy team is a close-knit group of doctors who work with a specially trained health care team. This team includes nurses, medical specialists, and staff from clinical nutrition, social work, pharmacy, and child life.

What to expect during your visit

The health care team will review your child’s immunotherapy treatment plan, including the schedule and dose. The details will depend on the type of immunotherapy your child is scheduled to receive.

For example:

  • Immunotherapy drugs are usually injected into a vein intravenously (IV).
  • Immune cells, including CAR T-cells, are given by IV or injected directly into the area around the tumor.

Whatever your child’s treatment, you will have time to ask your health care teams questions and to discuss any concerns.

Treatment side effects

Immunotherapy side effects are different based on your child’s treatment. Your child’s health care team will tell you what to expect and how to respond. They will also answer questions and talk about your concerns.

Learn more