Childhood Cancer Awareness Month Spotlight: Bringing the Best of the Best to Fight Cancer in Kids

Giannoula Lakka Klement, M.D.



Dr. Lakka Klement is one of the founding members of the Pediatric Cancer Consortium of Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 and a true pioneer in the war on cancer, particularly when it comes to the diseases’ most vulnerable targets—children— who are still growing and developing.

A leading Pediatric Hematologist and Oncologist at the Tufts Medical Center Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center in Boston Massachusetts, she also serves as Chief of Academic and Research Affairs for the Division of Pediatric Hematology / Oncology and the Director of the Rare Tumors and Vascular Anomalies Program. She has been using personalized molecularly-guided therapies for over a decade and established a well-recognized program in precision medicine.

Dr. Lakka Klement has always been a pioneer. In fact, early in her career when few clinical oncologists entertained the idea of targeting the tumor microenvironment, she focused her research on developing novel antiangiogenic therapies. The concept of inhibiting tumor angiogenesis involves inhibiting the growth of vessels that supply the cancer with nutrition. Because normally vessels do not grow after birth, anti-angiogenic strategies are targeted to tumor endothelium. Her post–doctoral work led to the first publication on metronomic, or low-dose, continuous, chemotherapy, and caused a paradigm shift in our thinking about anti-cancer therapy. Metronomic chemotherapy continues to be explored in numerous clinical trials, and forms the basis of introduction of most new antiangiogenic agents. More recently, recognition from this work led to funding for research to advance the ability to help adults and children with difficult-to-treat cancers using combinations of metronomic and targeted therapies.

A true progressive, she embodies the vision of Cancer Breakthroughs 2020, which is to bring about the next generation of cancer care—away from one-size-fits-all toxic therapies that can damage the immune system to employing combination immunotherapy to unleash the power of the body’s immune system to fight the disease the way it was designed to do. 

We asked her: Why is the mission of Cancer Breakthroughs 2020 so important to children with cancer?

“The main difference between pediatric cancer and adult cancer is that in the treatment of childhood cancers it is extremely important to avoid long-term side effects of treatment. In the case of high dose chemotherapy and radiation, children are often left with permanent growth, neurological, psychosocial and hormonal deficits. For example, radiation to the spine will permanently affect the growth of the spine, and radiation of the brain will permanently affect central nervous system maturation leading to developmental delays.  Using targeted agents, on the other hand, especially using agents targeted on the basis of the molecular signature of the cancer, is more likely to avoid long-term ‘off target’ effects.”

As we honor September as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we are grateful to have the dedication and brilliance of Dr. Lakka Klement, and all the members of Cancer Breakthroughs 2020’s Pediatric Cancer Consortium as we bring the promise of immunotherapy to children—and adults—everywhere.   


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