Giselle Saulnier Sholler, MD, and her little patient, Erica, from Ireland, are shown in an exam room.Together with Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Dell and the Translational Genomics Research Institute, Spectrum Health will bring a personalized medicine clinical trial to children fighting pediatric cancers in Lebanon.

Led by Giselle Saulnier Sholler, MD, director of pediatric oncology research, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and Jeffery Trent, PhD, FACMG, president and research director, T-Gen, the trial focuses on identifying drug treatments tailored, or personalized, to the specific genomic changes within the tumors of children with aggressive cancers.

Also referred to as precision medicine, this type of research aims to customize drug treatment plans to the unique genetic make-up of an individual’s tumor cell. Highly advanced computations provide explicitly detailed genomic information.

“The collaboration between Spectrum Health, Dell and T-Gen has been instrumental to the work of the trial,” said Bob Connors, MD, president, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. “The collaboration underscores the ways many dedicated specialists are working together to address childhood cancer.”

In the trial, researchers study tumor biopsies using DNA and RNA sequencing performed at T-Gen. The data is then shared with Spectrum Health and analyzed using Dell computer power and complex algorithms constructed by the research team.

An international group of physicians and researchers collaborate on the findings–through a customized online virtual meeting space–and design recommended treatment plans targeted for each patient’s tumor.

“The work T-Gen and the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium does instills hope in so many children and families fighting aggressive pediatric cancers,” said Trisa Thompson, vice president of Corporate Responsibility, Dell. “This collaboration changes outcomes, and we’re thrilled to extend support to families battling childhood cancer in Lebanon.”

Erica, from Ireland, holds a cup and sips from a straw.“When children develop cancer, they don’t have time to wait. Dell’s commitment to the (consortium) is changing how we look at and treat childhood cancers, and it’s gratifying to see the addition of Dr. Saab, which now provides us with a clinical site to help children on an international level,” Dr. Trent, from T-Gen, said.

Dr. Sholler is the endowed director of the Haworth Family Pediatric Oncology Innovation Therapeutics Clinic and director of pediatric oncology research at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. She is also chair of the consortium, which recently published the first study on the feasibility of using molecular-guided therapy for the treatment of relapsed neuroblastoma.

In her work, Dr. Sholler has cared for children with neuroblastoma and medulloblastoma–both highly aggressive cancers–nationally and internationally. Her research is supported largely through peer-reviewed grant funding and philanthropy.

Ray Saab, MD, pediatric oncologist, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, is the physician investigator for the Lebanon arm of the consortium precision medicine trial.

“I had the pleasure to meet Dr. Saab through the International Society of Pediatric Oncology when we presented our research from Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital,” Dr. Sholler said. “Dr. Saab is an international leader in pediatric cancer research and we welcome her interest in this work and the opportunity to work with her. Her insights and collaboration will enable this research to reach children across the globe.”

This is the third precision medicine trial through consortium. The goal of this trial is to enroll an additional 50 patients this year, with approximately five being seen in Lebanon.