Skip to main content

Saving Pediatric Patient Lives Through Donations and Clinical Trials

Read time: 4 minutes

Video transcript

My name is Samuel Cheshier, MD, PhD. I'm a pediatric neurosurgeon at the Primary Children's Hospital, and I am the director of Pediatric Surgical Neuro Oncology. I also am a principal investigator with the Translational Lab here at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, where I focus on making your immune cell called macrophages eat pediatric brain tumors.

Macrophages are specialized cells in your immune system that are the beginning and end of every immune system. So, these little cells gobble up material, and they gobble up bacteria and viruses, and then they alert your other arms of the immune system to come get and kill a virus or bacteria.

The cancer stem cells and leukemia always express this molecule called CD47. And we call it a ‘don't eat me’ signal because, as long as it's there, the macrophage will not eat it. Cancer cells have these other signals called ‘eat me’ signals. That's literally what they're called in the scientific literature—‘eat me’ signals, but the ‘don't eat me’ signals keeps the macrophages away. So, what happens is, when you block the ‘don't eat me’ signal, the ‘eat me’ signals are then unopposed. They wondered, ‘Well, if we block this on a cancer cell, will the macrophages eat them?’ And that's exactly what they found. It's been tried on dozens of tumors, and I've probably tried on 10 different brain cancers, and it works every single time.

We had so much data, and the data was such high quality, the manufacturer of the anti-CD47 allowed us to do a trial. This is the first trial of this therapy for brain cancer, and it's the first trial for this therapy in children, period. And it's all led here at the University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute.

It's an awesome environment—there's support from every single level. People don't realize that our clinical trial landscape is as big as any major institution in the country. It facilitates getting things from the laboratory bench to the bedside, giving it to the patients.

One of the reasons why I love children is because I'm willing to wake up from the dead of sleep at three o'clock in the morning and go save their life. And I see how cancer devastates them, and I see how it devastates their family, but I see how strong these little kids are.

I would like to thank everybody who supports the research and the clinical efforts here at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. I don't know if these donors know, but the absolute best and most groundbreaking research occurs, or it gets done, from funds that were given by donors—the game changers, the groundbreakers. That all comes from somebody believing in an institution, somebody believing in a person at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. And, just given a generous gift, that motivates me because, if I can do something that will make it so that child doesn't succumb to the cancer, I'm going to stay up and write that grant. I'm going to do the experiment. I'm going to publish the paper. We're going to do the clinical trial, whatever it takes to help this child.

Thank you very much. I couldn't do it without you.

Cancer touches all of us.