Tara O’Donohue, MD is the KACF medical oncology fellow for 2019 – 2020.  She is in her third and final year of her pediatric hematology oncology fellowship and also serving as one of Peds Chief Fellows. A graduate of the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Dr. O’Donohue did her internship and residency training at NYP-Weill Cornell and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Clinical and Translational Investigation at Weill Cornell’s Medicine Clinical and Translational Science Center. 

Dr. O’Donohue noted that as our understanding of pediatric cancers becomes more sophisticated, we are able to target specific genes and mutations that are critical to a cancer’s growth.  Dr. O’Donohue’s research focuses on targeting specific pathways, by incorporating new agents, that are known to contribute to the development and drug-resistance of many pediatric tumors, including specific sarcomas and neuroblastoma. It is hoped this will lead to pediatric clinical trials to evaluate its anti-cancer effect for difficult to treat pediatric cancers. 

Recently, drugs designed to target specific proteins in a cancer cell that are crucial to its growth and survival have shown some therapeutic benefit. However, these same therapies eventually become ineffective as cancer cells develop ways to bypass the therapeutic effects of targeted drugs. We are studying a new agent (TPX-0005) that has been carefully designed to avoid the ways in which cancer cells develop treatment resistance in patient derived xenografts (mouse tumor models derived from pediatric patient samples). We are investigating the effect of this new drug on animal models and will use the critical information gleaned to develop a first in pediatrics clinical trial assessing TPX-0005’s anti-cancer effect in pediatric patients. By evaluating TPX-0005 in the laboratory and in pediatric patients through a clinical drug study, we have the potential to eliminate the roadblock of treatment resistance to targeted therapies, decrease treatment-related toxicities compared to conventional therapeutic options, and improve the effectiveness of current treatments for specific pediatric cancers.