Chief of the Research and Clinical Trials Team

Dr. Slayton: Professor, Department of Pediatrics; Chief, Division of Pediatric Hematology / Oncology; University of Florida College of Medicine 

In 1996, Stop Children's Cancer awarded Dr. Slayton a 2-year fellowship working on blood development and Leukemia. He continued this research making discoveries regarding bone marrow transplantation and high risk forms of Leukemia. Dr. Slayton went on to run critical clinical trials focused on a particular high risk form of Leukemia called Ph+ Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, improving its cure rate and reducing side effects. Stop came to know Dr. Slayton as an amazing partner and advocate for our Mission. By keeping Stop informed, we realized his great integrity and dedication toward his profession in finding cures for childhood cancers. When Dr. Slayton returned to UF in 2002, Stop Children's Cancer was very excited, because he was and continues to be a great steward of our programs. Dr. Slayton and his team inspire Stop to seek funds to continue needed research in childhood cancers.

Stop Children's Cancer: Research Clinical Trials

The Department of Pediatrics Hematology / Oncology at the University of Florida College of Medicine partners and participates with the Children's Oncology Group (COG) for Research Clinical Trials. Stop Children's Cancer provides funding to the UF Team administering these Research Clinical Trials. COG pools information from thousands of enrolled patients treated in over 200 different hospitals located in North America, Europe and Australia. This international collaboration has led to major discoveries making a major impact on curing children with cancer and improving their lives.

Research Clinical Trials Lead to Important Discoveries:

Discovery 1

Blinatumomab, is a new drug used to treat patients with relapsed B-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. This is the most common form of childhood cancer and when it relapses can be challenging to cure. Blimatumomab is a form of Immunotherapy. It is a protein that attaches to T-cell, immune cells that can kill cancer cells. Blinatumomab causes them to stick to the cancerous leukemia cells. This contact triggers a killing pathway that leads to the death of the Leukemia.

Using this method has improved the survival of relapsed patients with B-cell ALL and was significantly safer than using standard chemotherapy with few infections and no deaths compared with standard chemotherapy which caused fatal infections. Blinatumomab is now being tested in trials supported by Stop to a high-risk group of newly diagnosed patients with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, who are more at risk of relapse based on the fact that they are responding slower to therapy. Preventing a relapse improves survival, and also the quality of life by preventing patients from having to go through treatment a second time.

Discovery 2

Nelarabine has been shown to improve cures and reduce side effects in T-cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Lymphoma. This drug accumulates specifically in the T-cell leukemia cell, leaving healthy cells alone. Adding Nelarabine to a standard for T-cell Leukemia has improved the survival in patients with high-risk disease from 80% to 92%. Like Blinatumomab, because the drug targets the Leukemia cells and leaves normal cells alone, patients had fewer side effects when they received this medication.

One other important benefit was that Nelarabine prevents the disease from coming back in the brain which is a common site of relapse in this form of cancer. At UF, this medicine is now a standard given to all children with T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

Discovery 3

Together with the COG an antibody has been developed to improve the cure rate for Neuroblastoma; a devastating form of cancer that predominantly affects children from 0 to 4 years of age. Improving cure rates in Neuroblastoma has been a major challenge over the span of the past 4 decades. In the past decade, the addition of an antibody to GD1 has been added to treatments. GD1 is a molecule called a ganglioside found on Neuroblastoma. Adding this antibody treatment, another form of Immunotherapy, improves the cures from 50% to 70% in children with high-risk Neuroblastoma. This discovery has benefited a number of children in our community.

These Research Clinical Trials lead to important discoveries improving the future survival rate of children with childhood cancers.