News and Updates
Vitanza Lab at the 2023 Pediatric Society of Neuro-Oncology Conference
On behalf of the Seattle Children's and Seattle Children's Therapeutics CNS CAR T cell program, Dr. Vitanza was honored to give an oral presentation on the nearly complete phase 1 clinical trial BrainChild-03, delivering intracranial B7-H3 CAR T cells to children with recurrent/refractory CNS tumors and DIPG/DMG. This was given a Top Scoring Abstract Award.
Dr. Timpanaro also gave an outstanding update of laboratory research taking place in the Vitanza Lab and the next generation of CAR T cells.
With the majority of the Vitanza Lab attending, the conference was a successful opportunity to share early stage ideas with other labs and with the scientific community at large.
Cancer Moonshot Brain Cancers Forum on GBM and DIPG at the White House
Dr. Vitanza was one of a handful of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) researchers invited to the 2023 White House Cancer Moonshot Brain Cancers Forum, a summit aimed to spur action and imbue hope. Alongside other national leaders in adult glioblastoma (GBM) and pediatric DIPG research, Dr. Vitanza worked with Biden administration officials to share progress on active work, discuss the greatest challenges to patients and the field, and forge collaborative commitments to meeting those challenges.
Accepted Oral Presentations at the 2023 Pediatric Society of Neuro-Oncology Conference
Our team was thankful to have two abstracts that were submitted to the 2023 Society of Neuro-Oncology Pediatric Conference selected as oral presentations.
We will be sharing updates from BrainChild-03, a first-in-human phase 1 study of intracranially delivered B7-H3 CAR T cells for children with DIPG ("Intraventricular B7-H3 CAR T cells for diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma: interim analysis of BrainChild-03 Arm C") and preclinical laboratory results of a new quad-targeting CAR T cell ("Preclinical efficacy of multi-antigen (HER2/EGFR806/B7-H3/IL13ra2) targeting quad-CAR T cells against diffuse midline glioma") that is supporting the newely opened clinical trial BrainChild-04.
We look forward to bringing our entire lab to the conference to support early, transparent, translational collaboration with other centers across the country and across the world.
Thanks to the lab, our clinical research team at Seattle Children's, and our CAR T cell program at Seattle Children's Therapeutics for all your hard work.
In unrelated news, we went bowling.
New Postdoctoral Lab Members
Dr. Vitanza is thrilled that his research program has attracted two new postdoctoral scientists who are joining the lab in 2023.
Edward Song, PhD, earned a B.S. in Biological Sciences from the University of Pittsburgh and a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Pennsylvania, where his PhD study focused on CAR T cell therapy for glioblastoma under the mentorship of Drs. Michael Milone, Daniel Powell, and Carl June. Edward is passionate about doing translational research to develop novel cellular immunotherapies for CNS tumors from bench to bedside.
Andrea Timpanaro, PhD, earned a B.S. and a M.S. in Molecular Biotechnology at the University of Insubria. During his PhD in Biomedical Sciences at the University of Bern, he performed surfaceome profiling of rhabdomyosarcoma and investigated B7H3/FGFR4 CAR T cells in vitro and in vivo models. Andrea is excited to work on translational research and to develop novel CAR T cell-based therapies for brain tumors.
Both will be working on advanced targeted cellular therapies for children with CNS tumors.
Australian DIPG Researcher Dr. Matt Dun and the Hood Family Visit Seattle Children's
Dr. Vitanza was honored to host two families that have lost a daughter to DIPG: Dr. Matt Dun, founder of Run DIPG and an internationally renowned researcher who has rededicated his laboratory work to finding a cure for DIPG, and the Hood family, whose daughter Emily was the first patient with DIPG to ever receive intracranial CAR T cells.
Dr. Dun delivered an inspiring lecture to staff from Seattle Children's Research Institute and then graciously hosted a Q&A session with junior scientists. Dr. Dun and the Hood family took a tour of the Seattle Children's Therapeutics state-of-the-art CAR T cell production facility where Emily's CAR T cells were made.
Dr. Vitanza also received a generous donation from the Emily's Army DIPG Foundation and he is thankful to have such passionate support from local families, as well as international collaborators.
Seattle Children's CNS CAR T-cell Program Is Featured on Voices of America
Voices of America met with Dr. Michael Jensen of Seattle Children's Therapeutics and Dr. Nicholas Vitanza of Seattle Children's Research Institute to discuss the importance of developing novel targeted treatments to provide better, safer options for children with brain and spinal cord tumors. They described Seattle Children's multiple CNS CAR T cell trials (BrainChild) that have now delivered over 300 intracranial doses to over 60 enrolled patients.
Most importantly, Voices of America featured Gavin, a remarkable 3-year-old boy with DIPG, who has been doing great through 30 every-other-week intracranial B7-H3 CAR T cell doses on BrainChild-03.
Vitanza Lab Awarded 1 Million Dollar Grant by the We Love You Connie Foundation
Dr. Vitanza and his lab have been awarded a 1 million dollar We Love You Connie Foundation research grant. Over 20 DIPG focused research teams were invited to submit a proposal and Dr. Vitanza was one of the recipients, along with Drs. Cynthia Hawkins & James Rutka at SickKids Hospital (Toronto, CAN) and Dr. David Ziegler of Children's Cancer Institute (Sydney, AUS). This generous grant funding will be used to support laboratory scientists and cancer immunotherapy research that will take place in the Vitanza Lab over the next 4 years and lead to a new CAR T cell trial. Seattle Children's and the Vitanza Lab are incredibly thankful for this partnership as we look to expand and improve treatment options for children with DIPG.
International Society of Neuro-Oncology (ISPNO) Symposium
Seattle Children’s neuro-oncology, immunotherapy, and Vitanza Lab team members were thrilled to travel to Hamburg, Germany for the biennial International Society of Neuro-Oncology (ISPNO) Symposium. Nick Vitanza had two abstracts selected for oral presentations: “Interim analysis from BrainChild-03: Seattle Children’s locoregional B7-H3 CAR T cell trial for children with recurrent CNS tumors and DIPG” and “Targeted mass spectrometry of serial CSF and serum specimens from children with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma treated with intracranial B7-H3 CAR T cells”. Neuropathologist Bonnie Cole presented her research “A pilot study of clinical minimal residual disease detection in pediatric embryonal brain tumors” and Vitanza Lab scientist Carrie Myers presented “Therapeutic HDAC targeting in hypermutant CNS tumors.” Most importantly, this meeting continued to fuel ongoing collaborations and spark future joint projects in our international effort to cure brain and spinal cord tumors of childhood.
New Lab Hire
The Vitanza Lab is excited to announce the hire of a new research scientist, Michael Meechan, who has years of experience working with pediatric cancer models and CAR T cell studies in Seattle Children's Jensen Lab and Seattle Children's Therapeutics. His expertise in testing targeted cellular therapies and directing large in vivo studies immediately compliments the direction and skills within the Vitanza Lab and will allow growth of our programs. His presence will help accelerate our work and our collaborations with national and international partners aiming to cure malignant pediatric CNS tumors.
Dr. Nicholas Vitanza was interviewed by Drew Amorosi of Healio to discuss the preliminary findings of his CAR T cell trial BrainChild-01 that were published in the journal Nature Medicine (September 2021). City of Hope's Leo Wang, MD, PhD provides a commentary on Dr. Vitanza's study and results.
Dr. Nicholas Vitanza was interviewed by News Nation to discuss the current state of national pediatric cancer funding in the United States and the goals of his lab. He also focused on the tolls of current cancer therapies.
Dr. Vitanza shared that, “Unfortunately, for almost all pediatric cancers, the initial therapy is some type of surgery. Pretty commonly, you have radiation afterward. And then you get cytotoxic, old-fashioned chemotherapy that does a lot of damage to the body. So children may have loss of their normal growth, infertility, nausea, and headaches. And these are effects that they have during their treatment, but then continue for the rest of their life. And so by the time they’re adults, most pediatric cancer survivors have multiple chronic illnesses. In my lab, we look at immunotherapy and targeted genetic therapies that we can give to children that are really specific and personalized for their tumor. And hopefully, one day by doing this will avoid all the more toxic therapies."
Vitanza Lab Joins Seattle Children’s Research Institute
Dr. Nicholas Vitanza and his team of researchers have joined Seattle Children’s Research Institute, bringing cutting-edge research to finding better treatments and cures for aggressive pediatric brain and spinal cord tumors.
The collaboration will leverage the missions and strengths of the Vitanza Lab and Seattle Children’s Research Institute, as well as the clinical capabilities of Seattle Children’s to mitigate the impact of diseases such as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), diffuse midline glioma H3 K27M-mutant (DMG) and atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor (ATRT).
“It has been a decade-long dream to direct a laboratory focused on curing pediatric central nervous system tumors,” Vitanza said. “I have only been able to get to this point thanks to the support of my family, the generosity of so many patients and advocates and the daily collaborations among our pediatric neuro-oncology team members. We dedicate our work to all the affected patients still searching for options, and we will work tirelessly so that we can live in a world where all pediatric CNS tumors have cures.”
The new lab team is located at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at 1100 Olive Way in downtown Seattle.