In the Spotlight: Chenue Abongwa, M.D.

Chenue Abongwa, M.D., joined CHOC Children’s in October 2018 as a pediatric neuro-oncologist at the Hyundai Cancer Institute. After finishing medical school at the Universite de Yaounde in Cameroon, he completed his pediatrics residency at Brookdale University Hospital in New York, his pediatric hematology/oncology fellowship at University of Iowa Hospitals and his neuro-oncology fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. We chatted with him about his time at CHOC so far.

Dr. Chenue Abongwa, Pediatric Neuro-Oncology

What drew you to medicine? Pediatrics specifically?

I was drawn to medicine earlier in my childhood. My mother worked as a nurse, and I often accompanied her when she did house calls to visit children and was very impressed by her dedication and desire to help sick children. I wanted to be like her when I grew up.

What about CHOC stuck out to you?

I initially heard about CHOC in 2013 when I was a fellow in pediatric hematology/oncology and came across a well-written web guideline on febrile neutropenia. This prompted me to seek information about the institution and about the team. I was very impressed by the institutional vision, dynamism, patient-centeredness and search for excellence. I applied without hesitation when the opportunity came.

Are you or do you plan to be involved with any special projects or groups at CHOC?

I am currently involved in several divisional clinical projects based on COG (Children’s Oncology Group) and will be joining some committees.

Can you share some of your goals at CHOC?

My goals are to initially build a strong clinical base by working in the neuro-oncology team in the short term. I hope in the long term to be actively involved in quality improvement, research and teaching.

What do you want your patients and their families to know about CHOC? 

The diagnosis of cancer in a child is a very difficult and traumatic experience to children and their families. Being part of their lives in these extremely difficult periods and advocating for these families is a great privilege. Our team here at CHOC, with its focus on patient-centered care, is the right place for these families to be during this time.

What do you like to do outside of CHOC?

I love traveling, watching football and playing chess.

Premier CHOC leukemia and immunotherapy conference draws international experts

A premier CHOC Children’s symposium centered around the complex issues facing pediatric leukemia patients drew more than 150 international leaders in the field of children’s leukemia treatment and research. This two-day conference had 33 speakers from various renowned institutions.

Building on the scientific foundation and exchange of information established in the gathering’s five-year history, attendees of the 2018 Society of Young Adult Oncology (SAYAO)/CHOC Children’s Leukemia Symposium shared the latest scientific and clinical advances in acute leukemia, specifically immunotherapy.

CHOC Children’s physician Dr. Van T. Huynh, chaired the symposium and presented her research on asparaginase therapy and silent inactivation.

Titled “From Pediatric to Adult Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia – The Age of Cellular Therapy,” the Nov. 5 and 6 symposia focused largely on CAR-T cell therapy and new agents for the treatment of acute leukemia. Specific topics included:

  • an update on CAR-T cell products and trials;
  • the future of CD 19, CD22 and NK CAR cell trials;
  • the economics of CAR-T cell therapy;
  • update on leukemia therapy for pediatrics and adolescent and young adults; and
  • supportive care and oncofertility for the leukemia patient.

The symposium drew more than 150 international pediatric leukemia leaders and 33 speakers from various renowned institutions.

The symposium was chaired by CHOC physician Dr. Van T. Huynh, who also presented her research on asparaginase therapy and silent inactivation. CHOC physician Dr. Carol Lin discussed toxicity and management of asparaginase therapy.

Learn more about referring a patient to the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s.

Dr. Jamie Frediani joins Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s

A pediatric hematologist/oncologist Dr. Jamie Frediani has joined the growing team of innovative specialists at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s.  Dr. Frediani looks forward to advancing CHOC’s leukemia and lymphoma programs, as well as the adolescent and young adult cancer program.

“The Hyundai Cancer Institute is experiencing an exciting time of immense growth, including creating new ways of delivering exceptional patient care, developing new treatments, expanding patient outreach and education, and enriching existing treatment teams,” says Dr. Frediani. “I am thrilled to be a part of this growth, and honored to join such a supportive team of experts.”

Pediatric hematologist/oncologist Dr. Jamie Frediani has joined the growing team of innovative specialists at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s.

After graduating with high honors from University of California, Davis with a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, Dr. Frediani completed medical school at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.  Her residency and fellowship training were done at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA), respectively.  Throughout her education and training, she assumed numerous leadership roles.  Most recently, she was chief fellow in the department of hematology/oncology at CHLA.  Aside from focusing on delivering excellent, family-centered care, Dr. Frediani would like to enhance the educational curriculum for medical students, residents and fellows, focusing on interactive and case-based learning experiences.

Dr. Frediani’s previous research includes examining the impact of the timing of central line placement in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on infection and thrombosis rates; studying perioperative complications in patients with high-risk vascular malformations who underwent surgical or interventional radiology procedures around the site of their lesions; investigating the incidence and clinical course of varicella and herpes zoster in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the pre and post-vaccination era; and studying the outcome of empiric treatment with cefepime versus ceftazidime in pediatric oncology patients with febrile neutropenia.  The latter two studies were conducted in partnership with clinicians at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Her fellowship research in the laboratory of Dr. Muller Fabbri focused on exosomal communication between endothelial cells and cancer cells, leading to miRNA-mediated increased migration of the cancer cells. In addition to numerous abstracts, Dr. Frediani has published in Molecular Cancer, Archives of disease in childhood and Pediatric blood and cancer.

When not caring for patients, she enjoys trips to Disneyland, hiking, and reading, particularly science fiction/fantasy novels. She loves to travel, exploring the world and other cultures.

Impact of Precision Medicine on Oncology Field

Precision medicine is changing how physicians think about treatments, with great advances coming out of the oncology field.  In podcast No. 42, three CHOC experts and speakers at the upcoming Peds2040 conference, Dr. Anthony Chang, Dr. Leonard Sender and Spyro Mousses, Ph.D., discuss exciting developments impacting patients today and offering tremendous hope for the future.

Dr. Sender, medical director of the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC, is determined to find a cure for cancer and prevent or reduce the toxicity associated with treatments.  Under his leadership, CHOC has programs in place that bring together big data, bioinformatics and genomic sequencing.  In addition to discussing what CHOC is currently doing, he and Dr. Mousses, whose interested include artificial intelligence, share plans for the near future, including offering very complex molecular profiles in collaboration with multiple specialists and institutions, including hospitals and bioinformatics companies from across the nation.

To hear more from these three thought leaders, listen to episode No. 42:

CHOC Radio theme music by Pat Jacobs.

Fertility Preservation ‘Central’ to Health, Wellness of AYA Patients

Oncology providers administer treatment to approximately 70,000 adolescentFertility Preservation Oncology and young adult patients (AYA) each year in the United States, three CHOC Children’s oncology staff members write in HemOnc Today.

Fertility preservation is central to the health and wellness of this population, defined as those aged 15 to 39 years.

As such, it is of great importance to distinguish which patients are at risk for infertility, understand what options — both established and experimental — are available to preserve fertility, and know how to advocate for and educate our patients about those options.

The focus of this article is on AYA patients with cancer, as this population is the most likely to be fertile. However, we understand and appreciate that women and men aged 40 years or older may desire to have a family following their cancer diagnosis and, if this is the case, the same options discussed below may be applicable to these patients.

The desire to have a family is prevalent in young cancer survivors. However, many patients may not raise the topic of fertility preservation at the time of diagnosis for a variety of reasons. They may be overwhelmed by and focused exclusively on the cancer diagnosis. They could be unaware that potential fertility loss may occur, or they might be concerned that pursuing fertility preservation will delay treatment.

Therefore, it is incumbent on the oncology team to properly educate patients whose fertility may be affected by their treatment.

Read the rest of this article from Dr. Leonard Sender, medical director of the Hyundai Cancer Center at CHOC Children’s; Julie Messina, an oncology physician assistant; and Keri Zabokrtsky, research program supervisor at the Hyundai Cancer Genomics Center, in HemOnc Today.