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Unique decision model informs pediatric Hematology/Oncology field


Developing a decision model in the field of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology is rare (only a handful have been published in the last 30 years), but Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist Michael Kelly, MD, MPH, MS is an innovative clinical researcher.

Dr. Kelly used comparative effectiveness research (CER), a method of comparing benefits and harms in patient care, to model the life expectancy of a subgroup of pediatric high-risk leukemia patients. His model predicts outcomes for patients treated both with and without prophylactic cranial radiation therapy (CRT), one type of strategy used to prevent or delay the spread of cancer to the brain.

According to Dr. Kelly, “Generally, patients tolerate prophylactic cranial radiation therapy well during their initial treatment, but it’s associated with long-term side effects such as learning disabilities, secondary malignancies and endocrine disorders.”

The evidence gathered by Dr. Kelly allowed him to create a survival model, which models patients’ life expectancy and quality-adjusted life expectancy. With this model, he was able to conclude that short-term survival is similar amongst patients treated with any of three CRT strategies, but that long-term overall survival is lower with prophylactic CRT due to late effects of treatment such as secondary malignancies.  

Since joining the Tufts Medical Center community five years ago, Dr. Kelly has been committed to developing his clinical research career in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. He was a recipient of a Career Development Award (KM1 Program) in CER through the Tufts Clinical and Translational Science Institute. He earned a Master of Public Health at Brown University during his fellowship and a Master’s in Clinical and Translational Science at The Sackler School of Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University during his KM1 Program.

Dr. Kelly notes that his research wouldn’t be possible without help from his mentors, Susan K. Parsons, MD, MRP, Director, Center for Health Solutions, Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies and Steven G. Pauker, MD, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Decision Making.  Dr. Parsons has served as Dr. Kelly’s research mentor since his arrival at Tufts in 2009.  Dr. Pauker spent a lot of one-on-one time with Dr. Kelly as he learned the finer points of developing a methodologically rigorous decision model for this project.

The model Dr. Kelly created is only the beginning of addressing complex decision-making. He will continue to conduct similar research by studying different subgroups of high risk leukemia patients with the ultimate goal of providing pediatric oncology patients with the most appropriate care plan.

As a winner of the Research Travel Award, which supports travel to a professional meeting related to the investigator’s career in biomedical/translational research, Dr. Kelly will present a summary of his project at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology. His hope is that sharing his research will educate others in his field about these methods of comparative effectiveness research and present opportunities for collaboration among other researchers in the field of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.