On the Pulse

PedAL Initiative ‘Dares’ to Transform Treatment and Care for Kids with Blood Cancer

7.28.2022 | Ashley Speller

PedAL leadership left to right: E. Anders Kolb, Gwen Nichols, Samuel L. Volchenboum, Laura Di Laurenzio, Soheil Meshinchi, Todd Cooper

For children battling through a diagnosis of relapsed leukemia, moving away from standard chemotherapy and onto newer, safer treatments is something many families are hopeful for.

Seattle Children’s is actively working to identify, validate and innovate how children with pediatric acute leukemia, including acute myeloid leukemia and other high-risk leukemias, are treated through a collaborative master screening clinical trial led by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) called Pediatric Acute Leukemia (PedAL).

The PedAL Master Trial is part of LLS’s Dare to Dream Project, which is focused on transforming treatment and care for kids with blood cancer. Dr. Todd Cooper, a section chief of Pediatric Oncology, director of the Pediatric Leukemia/Lymphoma Program and co-director of the High-Risk Leukemia Program at Seattle Children’s, is one of the visionary leaders who aims to fundamentally change how children are treated by replacing one-size-fits-all chemotherapy with tailored treatments. As the clinical trial lead for the PedAL initiative, Cooper is part of the leadership team responsible for launching the first-of-its-kind global master screening clinical trial to change the treatment paradigm for acute leukemia.

“As we’re learning that children have a unique disease with unique targets, efforts like PedAL are critical to address the specific needs of our youngest, most vulnerable patients,” shared Cooper, the principal investigator of the screening trial, in a news release.

A closeup of Dr. Todd CooperThe screening step is particularly significant because it will identify biologic targets in a child’s specific leukemia cells and match them to clinical trials using targeted therapies.

“These tumor biology results will be assessed the same way from children around the globe, helping us advance research into more targeted treatments worldwide,” Cooper added.

The PedAL screening trial will be available in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand- bringing new hope for children who have not responded well to standard chemotherapy.

“We’ve made tremendous progress against leukemia, but too many children still relapse – including about half of children with acute myeloid leukemia and about 15% of children with acute lymphoid leukemia,” Cooper explained.

As a key role of PedAL, Cooper will lead the screening trial and help to design the clinical trials that children will be assigned to based on the screening trial results. Additionally, he actively participated with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA) in discussing individual new drugs and general clinical trial designs for children with relapsed acute leukemia.

Seattle Children’s doctors are pioneers in cancer research. Through innovative initiatives like PedAL, Seattle Children’s continues to lead the way in understanding the biology of leukemia and how to best fight it to improve care and cure rates for childhood leukemia.