Realizing Futures

Dr. Courtney Crane

craneheadshotcropSeattle Children’s Institute
Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research


Children diagnosed with brain tumors are in dire need of therapeutic options that do not damage surrounding healthy cells of the central nervous system associated. Chemotherapy and radiation are especially dangerous for children, because they target dividing cells. Unlike adult brain cells, which divide slowly or not at all, cells in the still developing brains of children become targets of the treatment aimed to cure their disease. Of those that are fortunate enough to survive their diagnosis, two thirds of children diagnosed with brain tumors will live their lives with devastating side effects as a result of their treatment. Side effects can include developmental and motor skill impairments, loss of vision or hearing, and predisposition to other cancers later in life. Our work proposes to develop therapies that use immune cells to identify and kill only tumor cells, reducing non-specific tissue damage that can be caused by current treatments.

T cell based immune therapies are extremely successful in the elimination of hematologic cancers, such as leukemia. However, responses to solid tumors, such as neuroblastoma and brain tumors, are less potent, and fail to induce complete remission. We hypothesize that this is the result T cell death caused by a lack of stimulatory signals in the suppressive tumor microenvironment. We propose to introduce a combination cellular therapy with the goal of overcoming this obstacle to T cell activation and persistence.

The work supported by the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation will develop a novel cell based immunotherapy that combines the specificity of T cells directed toward tumor antigens with the adjuvant support of associated macrophages, immune cells belonging to the innate immune system. We hypothesize that these cell types will synergize to induce a potent anti-tumor response without damage to healthy tissues.

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When you are young and healthy, it never occurs to you that in a single second your whole life could change. – Annette Funicello