CHOC Opens Wing for Adolescent, Young Adult Cancer Patients

A new wing at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s will provide a customizable healing experience tailored for adolescent and young adult (AYA) patients.

The new AYA wing features a lounge area and four specially outfitted rooms dedicated to this unique patient population. Patient room amenities include vibrant paint colors and customizable wall art.

Dr. Leonard Sender, medical director of CHOC Children's Hyundai Cancer Institute, Kara Noskoff, CHOC child life specialist and Kimberly Chavalas Cripe, CHOC president and chief executive officer celebrate the opening of the inpatient infusionarium and lounge.
Dr. Leonard Sender, medical director of CHOC Children’s Hyundai Cancer Institute, Kara Noskoff, CHOC child life specialist, and Kimberly Chavalas Cripe, CHOC president and chief executive officer celebrate the opening of the inpatient infusionarium and lounge.

Taking a cue from the Infusionarium, which opened in 2014 inside CHOC’s outpatient infusion center, the lounge features large, vertically oriented television screens that create a similar immersive, healing environment for patients.

There, AYA patients have a dedicated place to play video games, watch television and movies, or just hang out with their peers. The lounge was developed by Reimagine Well, a company that uses emerging technologies and digital media to create immersive healing environments tailored to patients’ requests.

To develop these virtual scenarios, the company posed a question to patients: Where would you want to heal?

Nick Meza, a 20-year-old patient, immediately knew his answer. As a lifelong Californian and committed Eagle Scout, his life was dotted with dips in the pool, canoe adventures along the river, and seaside snorkeling expeditions before being diagnosed with cancer two years ago.

“It is when I am in the water that I find the serenity and courage to stay positive and focus on what is right with the world,” Nick says. “When I am in, around or close to a body of water, I forget about troubles and my life’s struggles and suddenly water becomes my life, my strength and my healing place.”

A young cinematographer was then paired with Nick to create an immersive film capturing life under the sea; additional videos explored healing scenarios suggested by other patients.

These films will be broadcasted on the large screens in the lounge, as well as on smaller-scale, portable multimedia stations in each of the wing’s patient rooms. The mobile units will also have access to educational, “cancer survival” videos and eBooks that feature CHOC experts.

The AYA wing dovetails with the Cancer Institute’s recognition that teens and young adult patients with cancer have unique needs. In fact, CHOC’s is among the few pediatric cancer programs in the country with dedicated services for this patient population.

“When it comes to treating an adolescent or young adult with cancer, their medical needs are unique – but so are their psychosocial needs,” says Dr. Leonard Sender, medical director of the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s. “The AYA wing will give these patients a venue to heal on their own terms and a place to call their own.”

 

CHOC Joins National Pediatrics Consortium to Fight Childhood Cancer

 

Announced this week, the Cancer Institute is among 10 founding members of the Cancer MoonShot 2020 Pediatrics Consortium, the pediatric arm of a collaborative initiative launched earlier this year involving academic institutions, insurers and pharmaceutical companies working to create a new paradigm in cancer treatment. Cancer MoonShot 2020 aims to initiate randomized Phase II trials in 20,000 patients with 20 tumor types of all stages within three years. Those findings would inform Phase III trials and the development of a vaccine-based immunotherapy by the year 2020.

Moonshot 2020’s Quantitative Integrative Lifelong Trial (QUILT) program will allow Pediatrics Consortium participants to apply the most comprehensive cancer molecular diagnostic testing available, as well as leverage proven and promising combination immunotherapies and clinical trials. Additionally, infrastructure established by MoonShot 2020 will allow for real-time data sharing to accelerate clinical learning and insight among participants.

“The Pediatric Cancer MoonShot 2020 is so visionary and, at the same time, has the capacity to disrupt the cancer health care industrial complex,” says Dr. Leonard Sender, medical director of the Cancer Institute. “The Cancer MoonShot will attempt to cure all the numerous types of pediatric cancers with the least toxicity by harnessing the patients’ own immune systems and using the tumors’ unique genomic mutations to create individualized cancer vaccines.”

The work to be accelerated by Cancer MoonShot dovetails with existing efforts around genomic sequencing, precision medicine, bioinformatics and research at CHOC’s Cancer Institute. CHOC has been named a Caris Center of Excellence for its commitment to precision medicine, and participates in the California Kids Cancer Comparison, which brings big data bioinformatics to patients. CHOC has also recently enrolled its first patient in a multi-center clinical study for the treatment of relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) with investigational immunotherapy.

“Our Center has studied the value of whole genome sequencing for several years and has recognized the enormous value in such a test to assist in clinical decision making,” Dr. Sender says. “Now with the availability of the next evolution of molecular diagnostics from the genome to the proteome, we are excited by the acceleration of knowledge that this system will provide and are honored to be a founding member of such an important initiative.”

20140916_2712The formation of the Cancer Moonshot 2020 Pediatrics Consortium was shaped by three underlying drivers:

  1. Treatment of cancer – a heterogeneous disease shaped by multiple variables – requires a more personalized and precise approach. The Pediatrics Consortium will lead and use next-generation precision clinical genomic-proteomics enabling doctors and patients to get the most comprehensive molecular diagnosis in the market.
  2. The collaboration across industry and the medical and scientific community, as well as whole genomic and proteomic sequencing and clinical trials established under Cancer MoonShot, will help reduce barriers in the battle against pediatric cancer.
  3. The benefits afforded by a real-time data sharing infrastructure established by Cancer MoonShot 2020, combined with multiple participation from pharmaceutical companies, have not previously been available to individual pediatric cancer centers.

In addition to CHOC, the other founding members of the Consortium are Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC; Duke Department of Pediatrics – Duke University School of Medicine;  Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center; Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital; Phoenix Children’s Hospital; and Sanford Health.

 

 

CHOC Children’s Participates in California Kids Cancer Comparison Initiative

Dr-Sender-and-Patient
Dr. Leonard Sender with patient at CHOC Children’s

The Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s, under the direction of Dr. Leonard Sender, is a proud partner in the California Kids Cancer Comparison Initiative (CKCC), one of two demonstration projects recently selected by the new California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine, a public-private effort launched by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. CHOC patients will become the first in the state to benefit from big data bioinformatics.

CKCC will give cancer clinicians access to a much broader pool of genetic data than has been readily available, including tumor sequencing data from children and adults around the world. Through the use of a social media platform that maintains the privacy and security of patients’ data, clinicians and patients can upload, analyze and communicate genomic information and associated data. In addition to CHOC, the project includes investigators from UC Irvine, UC San Francisco, Stanford University, USC, the Pacific Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Consortium, including UCLA and UC San Diego, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Translational Genomics Research Institute.

CHOC’s key contribution to CKCC centers on the clinical trial “Pilot project: Molecular Profiles of Refractory and Recurrent Childhood, Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer.” Patients, whose cancer is either recurrent (returned after treatment) or refractory (not responding to treatment), have tumor and non-tumor specimens collected and sequenced to identify their molecular profiles. The information helps the care team personalize treatment plans, in addition to providing insight on why some cancers respond to therapy or recur despite treatment. As a result of CHOC’s participation in CKCC, these patients will become the first in California to benefit from big data comparisons based on the large cancer genomic datasets gathered and shared by the participating sites.

“The Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC made a commitment 10 years ago to invest time and resources in building a strong infrastructure that supports innovative genomic medicine techniques, and we’ve made tremendous progress. The era of precision medicine is here, and we cannot work in isolation. The richer the data, the richer our insight, helping advance clinical leads and new hope for patients and their families,” says Dr. Sender.

Bringing Fertility Preservation to the Forefront of Cancer Treatment

Efforts by the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s to ensure fertility preservation is top of Oncofertilitymind for adolescent and young adult oncology patients, as well as their care providers, were recently profiled by The Huffington Post.

“It is a fundamental right of any individual to be offered fertility preservation,” Dr. Leonard Sender, medical director of the Cancer Institute told the online news site. “If we, as a society, believe in cancer survivorship, then what we need is for people to have a choice as to if they want to have children or not.”

Earlier this year, Dr. Sender co-hosted a workshop on oncofertility at Stupid Cancer’s CancerCon. The goal was to bring together leading experts on fertility preservation to discuss the need and path forward to make fertility preservation a topic of conversation with every AYA oncology patient undergoing treatment at every pediatric hospital in the country.

Read the full article in The Huffington Post.

Conference Tackles Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

SAYAO-LogoIn a contrast to its inaugural year, the 2014 Society of Young Adult Oncology (SAYAO) Conference focused entirely on a specific type of cancer: acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Instead of again focusing on general psychosocial aspects of cancer treatments in the adolescent and young adult (AYA) population, this year’s approach allowed attendees to explore survivorship disparities between adult patients and the AYA population, Dr. Leonard Sender, SAYAO founder and medical director of the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s, told “The Huffington Post.”

Held Oct. 6 through 8 at UC Irvine, “Breaking Barriers in Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia” drew about 250 attendees, including 60 speakers and delegates. For more coverage of the conference, as well as a video, read “The Huffington Post” article.

The 2013 conference covered general psychosocial aspects of cancer treatment in adolescents and young adults. Read an in-depth summary of the 2013 conference, including links to its coverage on “The Huffington Post.”

Learn more about SAYAO.