During the event, Renbarger shared information about an upcoming clinical trial for children, adolescents and young adults with aggressive sarcomas, which are a specific type of tumor. Sarcomas are cancers that develop in the bones and soft tissues. Typically, physicians treat tumors with standard chemotherapy, as well as local control (which can be surgery or radiation). With this new maintenance therapy clinical trial, Renbarger said researchers will give patients the standard treatment, then transition them to a targeted drug, a newer generation of anti-cancer drugs specifically selected for what was driving their tumor at the time of diagnosis. Patients will continue that for about a year to evaluate whether that decreases their risk for relapse and improves their overall survival.
"The targeted small molecules are a newer generation of anti-cancer drugs that specifically target what's making the tumor grow," said Renbarger, Caroline Symmes Professor of Pediatric Cancer Research at IU School of Medicine. "We have initial seed funding from donors. Federal funding and other kinds of funding are often so competitive that we have to really show that there's some hint that it's helping patients before we can apply for larger grants. Having philanthropic funding and donor funding, like the money being raised at the Tyler Trent’s event, is really critical."
The upcoming clinical trial will initially enroll about 20 patients from Riley Children’s Health and IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center to evaluate feasibility before expanding to start enrolling at three other centers that are part of Big 10 institutions.
The cells taken from tumors donated by Tyler Trent to the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research at IU School of Medicine created the initial foundation for this upcoming clinical trial. Last year, researchers were able to publish their first scientific article about Tyler’s donated tumors in the peer-reviewed, international oncology journal, Cancers. Both Pollok and Renbarger are also researchers at IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.
"We've been able to use Tyler’s models to test a lot of under-explored targeted therapies," said Pollok, an associate professor of pediatrics at IU School of Medicine. "Now we have more than 40 models that have been developed from kids at Riley that we're actively studying in the laboratory. When we can develop our own tumor models from patients, we can also study the clinical history and outcomes of these patients and link it to our research data. By doing this, we can get a much better understanding of how tumors can adapt to therapy."
Tyler’s parents, Kelly and Tony, said they were grateful to Renbarger and Pollok for speaking with golfers at the event.
"It was so meaningful and impactful," said Kelly. "We had several comments from those attending how much it meant to hear from them. It really personalizes the need for research. We are so very grateful for their time."
The event was originally scheduled to occur in 2020, but needed to be postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Tyler’s parents said they wondered if there would still be as much interest in the outing a year later.
"We were blown away with the continued show of support and all of those still willing to participate and help a year later," said Tony. "It was better than we could have expected! Tyler was constantly on my heart, wondering what he would have thought. I could just see his smile. We are still smiling today thinking of how well the event went and for all the help and support we were given."
"It was incredibly uplifting to remember Tyler, hear stories and be able to talk about him and honor him," said Kelly. "As parents, we never forget. It’s a daily fight, but to hear others remember him with such fondness, there isn't a parent who wouldn't be incredibly blessed by that. To know people remember...it's healing."
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Research Communications Manager
Anna Carrera is the research communications manager for Indiana University's Precision Health Initiative, IU School of Medicine and the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. She joined the team in June 2019 after working as a TV news rep...