Hematology and Oncology, Inside Pediatrics

Robust LLH Program Continues Expanding, Raising Profile

With an overarching goal of improving cure rates while decreasing treatment toxicity and side effects, the Leukemia, Lymphoma and Histiocytosis (LLH) program at Children’s of Alabama has nearly doubled in size over the past decade as faculty members continue raising its national and international profile and spearheading innovative clinical trials and research.

            The LLH program includes five physicians and four nurse practitioners within the Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, which includes more than 25 faculty. LLH clinicians consult on about half of the new cancer diagnoses seen each year at Children’s, said Director Matthew Kutny, M.D., also an associate professor of pediatric hematology and oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

            LLH faculty members published 34 research articles in peer-reviewed journals over the last two years and presented more than 30 times at national oncology meetings. Additionally, several members sit on national steering committees or review boards that develop pediatric cancer treatment guidelines, Kutny said. The LLH program also participates in several key clinical trial consortiums, such as the National Cancer Institute’s Children’s Oncology Group, including selected membership in a network studying the newest oncology treatments in children.

            “Our faculty has expanded, but we’ve also gained greatly in our expertise,” Kutny explained. “When children come here with a particular diagnosis, they’re not just treated by a general hematologist or oncologist, but rather, through our disease-specific teams.”

            “We have providers who really understand that disease and are involved at a national level in developing the best treatments for that disease,” he added.

            Kutny’s own research efforts include leading several national trials in myeloid leukemias as well as focusing on central nervous system disease in acute myeloid leukemia. Other notable faculty research efforts include:

  • Aman Wadhwa, M.D., M.S.P.H.: Working with Smita Bhatia, M.D., M.P.H., Wadhwa is examining how body composition affects childhood cancer outcomes in lymphomas, with an eye toward predicting and modifying toxicities.
  • Wayne Liang, M.D., M.S.: With a dual appointment in bioinformatics, Liang is harnessing the power of big data via electronic health records to better match patients to appropriate clinical trials, among other efforts.
  • Julie Wolfson, M.D., M.S.H.S.: Involved in many local and national projects, Wolfson is concentrating on outcomes disparities in adolescents and young adults with cancer, an at-risk group not often incorporated into clinical trials.
  • Ana Xavier, M.D.: Leading several national trials in difficult-to-treat lymphomas, Xavier is also focusing on reducing the burden of chemotherapy and radiation exposure in lymphoma patients.
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