Phoenix Children’s Hospital has partnered with the University of Arizona College of Medicine and Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to launch the Ronald A. Matricaria Institute of Molecular Medicine. The institute will house academic and research programs and aims to bring genomics research to the forefront of pediatrics.
The $50 million project will employ 50 pediatric specialists in genomics and oncology, researchers and other staff, and leverage state-of-the-art imaging and bioinformatics infrastructure, including PET/CT, 3T MRI and 256-slice CT.
“The potential for treating almost any serious life-threatening illness in children is virtually unlimited using these technologies. [Most pediatric diseases] have a genetic basis. These technologies will allow us to unequivocally diagnose the patient and potentially treat him or her far better than would otherwise be the case,” explains Timothy J. Triche, MD, PhD, co-director of the institute.
Optimized for pediatric care
Every element of the institute has been designed with children in mind. The radiology department is tightly focused on the goal of imaging children, says Richard Towbin, MD, chief of radiology at Phoenix Children’s. Protocols and diagnostic considerations are designed for children from neonatal to adult size and have been stratified according to the radiologic assessment and age of the patient.
Strict adherence to Image Gently practices has enabled Phoenix Children’s to lower doses on all imaging exams, with some studies performed at 70 percent less radiation than average, says Towbin. In addition, its investments in high-speed imaging infrastructure, such as 256-slice CT, enable technologists to complete the exams quickly, reducing the need for sedation or anesthesia.
Phoenix Children’s represents “an interesting symbiosis” between pediatric medicine and researchers that sets the stage for new approaches, says Towbin. Clinical trials will be based on underlying genetic and molecular functions of pediatric cancer as opposed to tumor type—an approach never before used in pediatric patient populations.
Researchers bring expertise in creating nanomedicines that may be targeted to a specific tumor type, while the 16 pediatric radiologists and five fellows at Phoenix Children’s are skilled at targeted delivery of therapy. “We can combine our skillsets to deliver and image treatment tailored to the patient’s disease,” explains Towbin.
Images courtesy of Phoenix Children’s Hospital