histological image of Wilms Tumor

Leading Wilms tumor research nationwide: Q&A with Jeffrey Dome, M.D., Ph.D.

histological image of Wilms Tumor

Children’s National has become a resource for patients and families with Wilms tumor.

During the past year, Children’s National Hospital saw nearly 100 patients with Wilms tumor and other less common kidney cancers of childhood, far more than most centers in the country. This is largely due to the reputation the hospital has established for specializing in these diseases. While most patients with Wilms tumor have excellent outcomes, a significant minority of children with kidney cancer do not fare well. Children’s National has become a resource for patients and families with these challenging cancers.

Behind this reputation is Jeffrey Dome, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president of the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and division chief of Oncology at Children’s National, and the team of researchers he leads. For over a decade, he chaired the Children’s Oncology Group Renal Tumor Committee, an opportunity that gave him and his work great exposure.

Dr. Dome shares more on how Children’s National is leading in this space and what the future holds for new, exciting Wilms tumor treatment options.

Q: How is Children’s National leading in this space?

A: The good news is that for the most common type of childhood kidney cancer, Wilms tumor with “favorable histology,” the survival rate is more than 90%, which is an incredible success story. But approximately 25% of children and teens with other types of Wilms tumor and other kidney cancers do not fare as well. We specialize in kidney cancers that are harder to treat, such as anaplastic Wilms tumor, relapsed favorable histology Wilms tumor, bilateral Wilms tumor, clear cell sarcoma of the kidney, malignant rhabdoid tumor and renal cell carcinoma. Because we see a relatively large number of patients, we can draw on our prior experience and observations to recommend the best treatment options.

Q: What’s unique about this research?

A: We have several early-phase clinical trials that are of interest for children with relapsed kidney tumors. Some of these trials are part of research consortia, such as the National Cancer Institute-funded Pediatric Early Phase Clinical Trials Network (PEP-CTN). Other studies have been developed in-house at Children’s National, including a couple of studies using T cells to target pediatric solid tumors. The T cells that have been engineered by the Children’s National Cellular Therapy Laboratory are of particular interest for Wilms tumor because they target a protein called WT1, which is expressed in most Wilms tumors. In fact, WT1 was named after Wilms tumor. We have now had more than 25 patients with relapsed Wilms tumor come from around the country to participate in these studies. Based on early successes, we are continuing this line of research and trying to improve the technology in the current generation of studies.