Program Overview

The Pediatric Leukemia Research Program at Loma Linda University Health is focused on forms of pediatric leukemia that are at high risk for relapse and death. One specific subtype of B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (B-ALL) disproportionately affects Hispanic children and currently has a 30% survival rate. Our researchers are working to change that.

Program director Kim Payne  (In Memorium) and her team have created a novel patient-derived xenograft (PDX) model to better study this cancer. The model replicates the progression of the disease in an environment that mimics the human body. Because of this model, the team is able to test possible treatment options as they work toward a cure. Preclinical models like this one are highly effective tools in cancer treatment research.

Collaboration with the Children's Oncology Group

Our pediatric clinical research team, led by Dr. Albert Kheradpour, works closely with the Children's Oncology Group to assure that our patients have opportunities to participate in clinical trials that give them access to the most cutting-edge treatments available. Historically, Loma Linda University Children's Hospital has been among the top 10 pediatric cancer institutions nation-wide in enrolling children in clinical trials sponsored by the Children's Oncology Group.

Treatment through Young Adulthood

Many pediatric patients develop cancer during adolescence and will continue treatment during the transition to young adulthood. Because treatment response and toxicity can change with age, the adolescent and young adult (AYA) population offers unique challenges. Loma Linda University's Children's Hospital and Medical Center have a unique ability to provide care to these patients because of the close proximity and working relationship between our pediatric and adult oncologists.

Health Disparities in Pediatric Leukemia

Loma Linda University Health is a national leader in pediatric cancer clinical trials and a large portion of our patient base is Hispanic. Because of this, we're uniquely positioned to both study B-ALL and eventually end health disparities surrounding it. We have the resources necessary to facilitate research and translate results into impactful patient benefits, both for our community and for cancer patients around the world.


A primary goal of the Pediatric Leukemia Research Program is to find a solution to aggressive B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

The program's team has discovered that, when introduced in high levels, a certain molecule required to produce leukemia actually kills leukemia cells. At the same time, this molecule helps normal immune cells to grow.

The current goal of the research program is to continue experiments to move this molecule forward as a treatment. The program is gathering data to understand the mechanisms behind the molecule's functions. This research is the next step toward building effective treatments using both the molecule and other drugs.

Elf Zone, Inc.

This research also works in tandem with program director Kim Payne's (In Memorium) biotech company, Elf Zone, Inc. Elf Zone's specific goal is to translate the program's research into a clinically viable treatment. In this way, treatments for B-ALL become available as efficiently as possible.

Created in partnership with the LLU biotech incubator, N3Eight, Elf Zone, Inc. assists the translation process through otherwise unavailable channels. For example, Elf Zone works to secure resources needed to safely translate research into treatments.

Collaboration with the Cancer Health Disparities Program

The Pediatric Leukemia Research Program shares a large component with another one of our cancer research programs, the Cancer Health Disparities Program. Because a specific subtype of aggressive B-ALL disproportionately affects Hispanic children, there is a significant opportunity to reduce health disparity in our community.

Work on unraveling this health disparity is very close to our hearts. There are many Hispanic children in our community and this type of leukemia is both deadly and difficult to treat. Researchers from both programs share the same goal: give kids in our community and across the globe a fighting chance against this specific type of aggressive B-ALL.

Program Members


Kimberly Payne, PhD - Faculty Profile  (In Memorium)
Hisham Abdel-Azim, MD, MS


Mojtaba Akhtari, MD

Huynh Cao, MD

Chelsea Collins, MD

Chien-Shing Chen, MD

Shadi Farzin Gohar, MD

Albert Kheradpour, MD

Muhammad Kamal, MD

Quan Zhao, MD

Olivia Francis-Boyle, PhD

David Xu, MD, PhD


Translational Research Studies

5R01CA209829 (Payne, Kimberly - In Memorium)

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health – National Cancer Institute
Title: Targeting CRLF2 and Ikaros Alterations to Reduce Health Disparities in Childhood Leukemia

1 R43 CA224723 (Payne, Kimberly - In Memorium)

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health – National Cancer Institute, (Subaward from Elf Zone, Inc.)
Title: Biologic for the Treatment of High Risk B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (B-ALL).

Research Grant (Cao, Huynh Co-I)

Sponsor: California Institute of Regenerative Medicine
Title: Bone Marrow Targeting of Hematopoietic Stem Cells Engineered to Overexpress 25-OH-VD3 1-α-hydroxylase for Acute Myeloid Leukemia Therapy

ASH HONORS Scholar Award (Watson, WayAnne)

Sponsor: American Society of Hematology
Title: Mechanism of Biologic Therapy to Treat High-Risk Pediatric Leukemia

St. Baldrick's Summer Research (Payne, Kimberly - In Memorium)

Sponsor: St. Baldrick's Research Foundation
Title: Mechanisms of Biologic Therapy as a Treatment for High-Risk Pediatric Leukemia

Hyundai Scholar's Hope Grant (Payne, Kimberly - In Memorium)

Sponsor: Hyundai Hope on Wheels
Title: Novel Targeted Therapy for High-Risk Pediatric Leukemia

R21CA162259 (Payne, Kimberly - In Memorium)

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health – National Cancer Institute
Title: Xenograft Model to Study Impact of CRLF2-Ligand in Hispanic Childhood B-ALL

1R43CA165739 (Payne, Kimberly - In Memorium)

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health – National Cancer Institute, (Subaward from NovoMedix)
Title: Development of Small Molecule Drugs for the Treatment of High Risk B-ALL

Grants to Promote Collaborative and Translational Research (GCAT) (Payne, Kimberly - In Memorium)

Sponsor: Loma Linda University School of Medicine
Title: TSLP in Pediatric B-ALL

Agreement 2110318 (Payne, Kimberly - In Memorium)

Sponsor: Eureka Therapeutics
Title: Evaluation of Anti-cancer Drugs in a Human Lymphoma Xenograft Model

ASCO Young Investigator Award (Cao, Huynh)

Sponsor: Conquer Cancer Foundation of American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)
Title: Gene transduced mesenchymal progenitor cell for Vitamin D delivery in acute myeloid leukemia

F30CA221109 (Payne, Jonathon)

Sponsor: National Institutes of Health–National Cancer Institute
Title: Epigenetic Regulation in High-Risk Leukemia

Clinical Research Studies

AAML1031 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Children's Oncology Group
Title: A Phase III Randomized Trial for Patients with de novo AML using Bortezomib (NSC# 681239) and Sorafenib (BAY 43-9006, NSC# 724772) for Patients with High Allelic Ratio FLT1,1ITD

AALL1131 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Children's Oncology Group
Title: A Phase 3 Randomized Trial for Newly Diagnosed High Risk B-precursor Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) Testing Clofarabine (IND#73789, NSC# 606869) in the Very High Risk Stratum

ACCL1333 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Bristol-Myers Squibb
Title: A Phase III Randomized, Open label, Multi-center Study of the Safety and Efficacy of Apixaban for Thromboembolism Prevention versus No Systemic Anticoagulant Prophylaxis during Induction Chemotherapy in Children with newly Diagnosed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (All) or Lymphoma (Tor B Cell) treat with PEG L-asparaginase

Clinical Study Protocol Rider #09-MRD (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: National Marrow Donor Program
Title: The Role of Minimal Residual Disease Testing before and after Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation (HSCT) for Pediatric Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML)

St. Baldrick's Infrastructure Grant for Pediatric Clinical Oncology Research - LLUMC (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: St. Baldrick's Foundation

Infrastructure Support for LLUCC Pediatric Oncology Research (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: St. Baldrick's Foundation

Predictive Biomarkers for Pediatric Chronic Graft-versus-Host (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: The University of British Columbia

AAML1321 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Novartis Pharmaceuticals
Title: A Multicenter, Open-Label, Non-controlled Phase II Study of Oral Nilotinib in Pediatric Patients with Newly Diagnosed Ph+ chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML) in Chronic Phase (CP), with Ph+ CMS in CP or Advanced Phase (accelerated phase or blast crisis) Resistant/intolerant to Either Imatinib or Dasatinib or Refractory/relapsed Ph+ ALL

ANHL 1131 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: F. Hoffman-La Roche, Ltd.
Title: Intergroup Trial for Children or Adolescents with B-Cell NHL or B-AL: Evaluation of Rituximab Efficacy and Safety in High Risk Patients

AALL1421 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Jazz Pharmaceuticals
Title: A Dose Confirmation and Pharmacokinetic Study of Asparec (pegcrisantaspase) Administered as Intravenous (IV) Infusion in Children and Young Adults with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)/Lymphoblastic Lymphoma (LBL) Following Hypersensitivity to Pegaspargase (Oncaspar)

AALL1331 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Amgen
Title: Risk-Stratified Randomized Phase III Testing of Blinatumomab in First Relapse of Childhood B-Lymphoblastic Leukemia (B-ALL)

AAML1522 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Celgene Corporation
Title: A Phase 2, Multicenter, Single-Arm, Open-Label Study to Evaluate the Activity, Safety and Pharmacokinetics of Lenalidomide (Revlimid®) in Pediatric Subjects from 1 to < = 8 Years of Age with Relapsed or Refractory Acute Myeloid Leukemia

AHOD1331 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Seattle Genetics
Title: A Randomized Phase III Study of Brentuximab vedotin (IND#117117) for Newly Diagnosed Classical Hodgkin Lymphoma (cHL) in Children and Adolescents

AALL1521 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Incyte Corporation
Title: A Phase 2 Study of the JAK1/JAK2 Inhibitor Ruxolitinib with Chemotherapy in Children with De Novo High-Risk CRLF2-Rearranged and/or JAK Pathway-Mutant Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)

ADVL1621 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Baxter Healthcare Corporation
Title: A phase I/II study of MK-3475 (Pembrolizumab) in Children with Advanced Melanoma or a PD-L1 Positive Advanced, Relapsed or Refractory Solid Tumor or Lymphoma (KEYNOTE-051)

Recombinant Human Arginase 1 (rhArg) (Chen, Chien-Shing)

Sponsor: Oncotherapeutics

St. Baldrick's Foundation Supplement (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Children's Oncology Group

Workload Intensity: NIH COG Chair G (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: National Clinical Trials Network

Per Patient Reimbursement (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: National Clinical Trials Network

APEC14B1: Everychild PCR-COG Foundation (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Children's Oncology Group

Improved Infrastructure to particip (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: St. Baldrick's Foundation

CC-5013-AML-002 (Kheradpour, Albert)

Sponsor: Celgene Corporation