Cancer Immunotherapy

The goal of the cancer immunotherapy program at Norton Children’s Hospital is to offer cutting-edge new therapies to children with relapsed or high-risk tumors. Cancer immunotherapy is designed to boost a patient's own immune system to fight cancer cells. Many of our studies are specifically targeted for children with relapsed cancers.

Leading the program at Norton Children’s Hospital, Ashok Raj, M.D., works with a team of physicians and scientists whose focus is developing safer, more effective ways of killing tumor cells using the immune system. This translational research team is currently focused on targeting cancer proteins known as cancer/testis (CT) antigens, which can be increased using low-dose chemotherapy. A CT antigen vaccine is given to stimulate tumor-killing cells, which then recognize and fight the cancer proteins. Our cancer vaccine program is administered in the Clinical Research Unit, our state-of-the-art facility dedicated to pediatric clinical research.

Current research

A chemotherapy drug called decitabine is used to increase the expression of cancer proteins by tumor cells, and to then vaccinate children with relapsed neuroblastoma and sarcoma against these proteins.  We are also conducting a cancer vaccine trial for children with recurred brain tumors.  A vaccine to prevent relapse of acute myelogenous leukemia after allogeneic stem cell transplant is also under development.

Team members

Alexandra Cheerva, M.D.

Michael Huang, M.D.

Janice Sullivan, M.D.

William T. Tse, M.D., Ph.D.