Children's Hospital Oncologist Featured at Annual Cancer Meeting


John Maris, M.D., director of the Center for Childhood Cancer Research at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, was recently featured in a series of videos prepared for the American Association for Cancer Research’s annual meeting. Dr. Maris is the first pediatric expert to be included in the Association’s annual meeting videos.

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) videos highlighted Dr. Maris’ neuroblastoma research and the impact his work had on one young patient. Neuroblastoma, a cancer of the peripheral nervous system, usually appears as a solid tumor in the chest or abdomen. It accounts for 7 percent of all childhood cancers, but because it frequently appears in an aggressive form, it causes approximately 12 percent of all childhood cancer deaths. In high-risk forms of neuroblastoma the cancer tends to return after initial treatment, usually with lethal results.

In 2010 Dr. Maris co-authored a study that examined the effects of immunotherapy — biologic agents that stimulate the body’s immune system — on neuroblastoma. The study showed patients receiving immunotherapy experienced a 20 percent improvement in survival two-year survival rates.

“That is about as much of a home run as you can expect in a large, randomized Phase III clinical trial, and something that overnight changed the way that we approach the disease, and has led to the implementation of immunotherapy as now as a standard way to treat neuroblastoma to improve survival by preventing relapse,” Dr. Maris said.

The Cancer Center at CHOP has been using immunotherapy as part of standard treatment for children’s with high-risk neuroblastoma since 2009. Children have arrived from around the world to receive this treatment at Children’s Hospital, which has a long-established research and clinical program in neuroblastoma.

“Pediatric cancer research in many ways has played a leading role in the history of cancer research,” Dr. Maris noted. “Many of the early discoveries of how chemotherapy can work to cure cancer were first seen in children with cancer.

More information about the AACR and the 2012 annual meeting can be found on the Association’s website.