Pediatric Cancer Research

We believe that every child deserves a cure. In the last few decades, research has made strong advances towards improving cure rates for children’s cancers.  Overall cure rates have increased from less than 40% to nearly 70%. Unfortunately, progress is starting to slow down, and outcomes continue to be low for many advanced stage tumors and cancers that have spread to other parts of the body.  Future progress is highly dependent on new biological discoveries leading to the development of drugs specifically designed for pediatric cancers. Fortunately, technological advances have made the biological discovery process much more fast and efficient. Discovery of innovative biological agents are laying the foundation for new clinical trials in record numbers.  C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is home to the largest, cutting-edge pediatric research effort in the state of Michigan.  We believe every child deserves a cure, and we have designed our pediatric cancer research efforts to accelerate the search for different, better ways to cure childhood cancers.

Areas of childhood cancer research leadership

Our teams are conducting basic science, translational research and clinical research with a goal of finding new cures and better ways to deliver current treatments.  Our research focus spans from early diagnosis and cancer prevention, to developing less toxic treatments and exploring expanding horizons in life-long cancer survivorship. 

Research in the lab: Moving the boundaries of what we know about children’s cancer

Research in the lab, also referred to as basic science or bench research, investigates the fundamental causes and behaviors of pediatric cancers.  This type of research helps us understand the genetic causes of cancer, the pathways along which cancer cells grow, how to change the way cells behave, and why some cancers react certain ways in response to treatment.  Major breakthroughs in cancer treatment are often the result of basic science research.  At C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, we are home to many basic science research laboratories focusing on children’s cancer, including labs exploring some of the most promising areas of basic science research, such as epigenetics and differential therapy.  Our scientists are honing in on the biomarkers that cause cancer and predict cancer behavior. The U-M team is respected as one of the world’s leaders in this area of research.  Advances like these are the basis for precision medicine, or personalized medicine, for most childhood cancers.  

Translational Research: Fast-tracking science from the lab bench to the patient’s bedside

One of the distinctive aspects of the cancer program at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is our unique convergence of laboratory science and clinical treatment.  Our scientists don’t work in isolation from the doctors who see patients every day.  There is an incredible amount of collaboration and synergy that comes from bringing scientists and oncologists together to build on one another’s ideas in a way that accelerates meaningful discoveries. This collaboration between practicing oncologists and internationally renowned laboratory scientists allows us to fast-forward advances in research and treatment to benefit our patients very quickly.  An example of this is demonstrated through our next generation gene sequencing capabilities.  We are able to offer genetic sequencing faster and at lower cost than most pediatric cancer centers, resulting in real-time information that can help shape or change a child’s treatment plan on a personalized basis.

Research in the clinic setting:  Access to new hope when standard therapies have failed

Treatment for cancer is only as effective as the drugs we have available to us. Clinical trials give patients access to new drugs and protocols as soon as they are available.   C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital offers access to the largest pipeline of experimental drugs available, through our active membership in the Children's Oncology Group Phase I and Phase II-III consortiums. As one of only 20 institutions nationwide able to offer Phase 1 clinical trials to our patients, U-M has the most comprehensive and largest portfolio of clinical trials in the state of Michigan for relapsed cancers, many of which were developed here at U-M.   We are a member institution in both the NANT (Newer Approaches to Neuroblastoma Therapy) and TACL (Therapeutic Advances in Childhood Leukemia) consortiums, collaborating on advanced treatment options for relapsed neuroblastoma and leukemia respectively. Our patients also benefit from clinical trials which are designed and led by our own faculty and researchers.

Quality of life research: Helping children not just live longer, but better

The good news is that children diagnosed with cancer are living longer.  Many of these children can expect to live a long life after being treated with cancer.  Research now is turning to how to manage the effects of the treatments the child underwent as part of their treatment.  Our Childhood Cancer Survivorship Program is leading promising research on how we can understand and improve the long-term effects of cancer therapies.