Pediatric oncology is a rapidly evolving field. Dr. Dela Cruz finds it both humbling and gratifying when he helps patients and families navigate through those first several weeks after a cancer diagnosis and at the beginning of therapy. He also enjoys the long-term follow-up that he has with patients and their families as they complete treatment and resume their lives.
In addition to caring for patients, Dr. Dela Cruz conducts research in the area of pediatric solid tumors. Specifically, his research efforts are focused on understanding the biology of sarcomas. Dr. Dela Cruz has been developing cell models to understand the development of this heterogeneous group of tumors, with the hope of identifying novel targets to treat these tumors, which are exceedingly difficult to treat once they have metastasized.
Dr. Dela Cruz is working to validate a relatively novel approach to treating sarcomas by re-instituting a maturation program in sarcoma cells (since these and many other solid cancers are characterized by an arrest in normal maturation) through a process called "cellular reprogramming." If successful, this approach would represent a novel way of targeting and potentially treating cancer.
He also hopes to help develop novel sarcoma therapies through use of a patient- or tumor-centered approach – a form of personalized or "precision" medicine. The technology exists to sequence and establish a genetic signature for each patient's tumor. With this information, the Division may be able to specifically tailor treatment that would most effectively eradicate a patient's cancer while minimizing potential side effects. This is an ongoing project, and Dr. Dela Cruz believes it will be the paradigm for future cancer treatments.