Dr. Brian Crompton – Translational Research Grant
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Dr. Brian Crompton is a physician-scientist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and his research focuses on finding new treatment approaches for patients with aggressive pediatric sarcomas. These tumors are often devastating pediatric cancers whose treatments often employ intensive chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. Even with these aggressive treatments, less than 75% of children with high-grade sarcomas are cured and that rate has changed very little over the past few years. There are two major challenges that need to be overcome to improve our treatment approach: we need better drugs and we need to be able to predict which patients need these new treatments.
Through work funded by the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, Dr. Crompton is making progress on overcoming both of these challenges. In recent years, he has found that Ewing sarcoma, the second most common bone malignancy in pediatrics, is dependent on the activity of a protein called focal adhesion kinase also know as FAK. When FAK is inhibited, Ewing sarcoma cells die and can’t form tumors. While we are optimistic that FAK inhibitors could be utilized in the clinic for the treatment of Ewing sarcoma, we know that a single new drug will not be enough to cure patients with this disease. Therefore, Dr. Crompton and his colleagues have now screened a library of nearly 2,000 cancer drugs and found a class of compounds that are highly synergistic in Ewing sarcoma when combined with FAK inhibitors. Through the support of the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, he is now testing the effect of this drug combination on tumor progression in laboratory models of this disease.
For patients presenting with localized high-grade pediatric sarcomas, it is still impossible to predict which patients will be cured with standard therapy and which ones will relapse and ultimately succumb to their disease. With funding from the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation, Dr. Crompton is developing new blood tests that will help to track an individual patient’s response to therapy. These “liquid biopsy” assays will enable identification of patients who are not responding well to therapy very early in their treatment course and eventually allow the development of patient-specific, risk-stratified approaches to treatment. These assays can also be used to aid in the diagnosis of pediatric sarcomas, monitor for signs of relapse, and identify new patterns of treatment resistance that may help scientists identify new approaches to treatment for patients with pediatric sarcomas.