On the Pulse

More than Skin Deep: Providing Patients With ‘The Realness’

Dr. Markus Boos and his twin sons.

As a pediatric dermatologist at Seattle Children’s, Dr. Markus Boos shares his experiences as both a doctor and father, and the compassion he strives to bring to his patients to help them find hope in times of struggle.

I recently had a patient return to my clinic for a follow-up visit. One month prior, I had treated her for a couple of minor skin issues. At that time, I had instructed her to return to the clinic for additional care, if she experienced any symptoms again.

When she came back a few weeks later, I was surprised to see her. Her skin had healed, and she was doing well.

After I inquired about the reason for her visit, her mother replied, “because she simply wanted you to know she was doing better.”

“She also wanted you to know that you’re her favorite doctor.”

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Tailor-Made Fish Help Explain Genetic Conditions in Children

At Seattle Children’s Research Institute, scientists are genetically-engineering zebrafish to harbor human DNA mutations known to contribute congenital conditions in children.

More than five years ago, when Dr. Lisa Maves, a scientist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, first started using CRISPR to make genetic alterations in zebrafish, she saw the potential for the minnow-sized fish to help doctors understand how genetic mutations contribute to a child’s condition.

“Essentially, we set out to make a patient’s fish,” Maves said. “The zebrafish has a genome that is remarkably similar to humans. As new gene editing technology was just becoming available, I wondered whether we could use this technology to create a fish that mimicked the complex genetic conditions we see in children.”

Maves hypothesized that genetically engineering the fish in this manner would help uncover how different genes affect development and cause disease. Read full post »


Two Years Cancer-Free, Erin Advocates for T-Cell Immunotherapy

At age 2, Erin Cross was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She achieved remission through her initial cancer treatments, but relapsed in 2016. Out of treatment options, her family found hope in Seattle Children’s PLAT-02 T-cell immunotherapy clinical trial. Erin, now 8, just celebrated her two-year anniversary of being cancer-free. Photo by Jane Mann

Each morning, 8-year-old Erin Cross springs out of bed excited to go to school. A third grader in Chester, England, she loves science and math, and imagines a future as a researcher making “potions” in a lab. She loves cracking jokes, rugby and playing make-believe games with her friends on the playground. For Erin, who spent most of her life in the hospital and away from others her age, she cherishes each day she is able to just be a kid.

“It’s amazing to see Erin back to living a normal life,” said her mother, Sarah Cross. “We’re so thankful that we’re able to enjoy time as a family doing regular things like taking picnics, playing on the beach or going to the zoo. It’s time that we never take for granted.”

Nearly three years ago, Cross faced the devastating reality that she may never see her daughter grow up. At age 2, Erin was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). She was able to achieve remission through her initial cancer treatments, but in 2016, her family received the shattering news that she had relapsed and was out of treatment options.

That was, until they found hope in Seattle Children’s Pediatric Leukemia Adoptive Therapy (PLAT-02) chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy clinical trial for children and young adults with relapsed or refractory ALL who are not likely to survive with current treatments. In July 2016, Erin’s family arrived in Seattle for the trial.

“Seattle Children’s threw us a lifeline,” said Cross. “We knew we had to get her there. We moved mountains to save our daughter’s life.”

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Lifesaving Treatments Closer to Home Give Gary More Time to Be a Kid

Gary Bradford was a healthy 2-year-old until 2009, when what first appeared as seasonal allergies developed into a much more serious health condition.

After spending time outside in the pollen-filled air on a spring day, Gary’s face swelled and he developed a rash on his arm.

Three weeks later, the symptoms became more severe as he developed high fevers, sores inside his mouth and muscle weakness that was so bad he couldn’t get up when bending down to pick up his favorite toy.

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Seattle Children’s Brings Cancer Immunotherapy to a Global Stage

Avery Berg, 13, was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor at the age of 10. She endured six weeks of radiation, five brain surgeries, and six months of high-dose chemotherapy. Avery has been cancer-free for more than a year, but her mom Kristie says that cancer immunotherapy offers hope that other children can become cancer-free without having to endure such harsh therapies.

T-cell immunotherapy continues to take center stage as one of the most promising new cancer therapies of our time. What once sounded like a dream – reprogramming a person’s own immune system to fight cancer – is remarkably becoming a reality. What’s more; doctors and researchers in our own backyard are leading the way in developing this therapy for children and young adults around the world.

From covering the opening of the first T-cell immunotherapy trial when I was an anchor at KING 5 TV, to now seeing this therapy being tested in seven open clinical trials at Seattle Children’s and applied to a variety of cancers, I’ve been amazed to watch the enormous strides researchers have made in the field over a few short years.

The results also speak for themselves – 93% of patients with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia in Seattle Children’s phase 1 PLAT-02 trial achieved complete initial remission. About 50% were still in remission one year after therapy. Some patients, who were otherwise unlikely to survive with traditional therapies, are still in remission nearly five years after receiving the experimental treatment. This is encouraging news, especially since leukemias are the most common childhood cancers.

And on Oct. 12, I will witness yet another major milestone – Seattle Children’s will bring their groundbreaking therapies to a global stage. Read full post »


Toddler’s Heart Rebounds After ‘Frankenstein’ Heart Procedure

Katja, now 3, was the youngest patient at Seattle Children’s to undergo the Ozaki procedure.

Although Katarina Anja, or “Katja,” De Groot was born with a rare heart defect called truncus arteriosus, the active toddler never let her condition stop her from running, playing and going to the park.

However, when she was 2 years old, Katja began sleeping for most of the day and withdrawing from the activities she usually enjoyed. That was when her mother knew something was wrong.

“She wasn’t herself anymore,” said Jennifer De Groot. “My daughter is usually a happy-go-lucky child who loves to live life to the fullest. I didn’t know how much longer we could see her like that. It’s like we had reached the point of no return.”

De Groot’s concerns grew, and she knew she needed to seek help for her daughter. Dr. Maggie Likes, Katja’s cardiologist at Seattle Children’s, noticed a difference in her echocardiogram. It showed her aortic valve was not functioning properly.

“We had hit a tipping point,” Likes said. “Between the concerning changes on her echocardiogram and what her mom was seeing at home, it was time to do something about her aortic valve.”

De Groot knew her daughter wouldn’t be able to lead an active lifestyle with a mechanical valve because it would mean that Katja would have to undergo a lifelong regimen of anti-coagulants, commonly known as blood thinners. She made a bold move and asked the Seattle Children’s Heart Center team if they could perform an innovative surgical technique that would repair her daughter’s aortic valve – an unexpected suggestion that led to a collaborative decision.

At 2 years old, Katja would become the youngest child at Seattle Children’s to undergo the Ozaki procedure.

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2018-2019 Flu Update with Seattle Mama Doc

Flu season is coming so it’s time to add scheduling flu vaccines to your to-do list. On The Pulse sat down with Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, also known as Seattle Mama Doc, to get the latest flu news as the 2018-2019 flu season approaches. Spoiler alert: avoid promising a “no-poke” visit.

Q: What have we learned about last year’s flu season?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified the 2017-2018 flu season as a “high severity season.” Flu activity was widespread across the country, and the season was long. There were large numbers of doctor office visits, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations related to flu. The flu season came earlier than expected and was severe, by the numbers.

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Dr. Grey Saves the Day for Teen with Down Syndrome

Savannah Miller, 17, poses with nurse practitioner Lindsey Thomsen, who dressed up as Dr. Grey from the popular television show to make Savannah’s dream of meeting the fictional doctor a reality.

Doctor appointments aren’t usually a fun experience for 17-year-old Savannah Miller who was born with Down syndrome. Usually, trips to the hospital are accompanied with a fair share of reluctance and anxiety. During a recent trip to Seattle Children’s, however, that all changed thanks to Lindsey Thomsen, a pediatric nurse practitioner in the pre-anesthesia clinic at Seattle Children’s, who went above and beyond her usual duties. Thomsen was inspired by one of Savannah’s favorite television shows to turn a trip to the doctor into an unforgettable experience for Savannah and her family.

Savannah has been a patient at Seattle Children’s since she was a baby, undergoing her first open heart surgery at only 3 months old. Hospital stays and check-ups have been a large part of Savannah’s life, which understandably can cause some unease. That was the case when Thomsen first met Savannah a few weeks ago. They were meeting to talk about an upcoming procedure.

“It was a challenge just to get her in the door that day,” said Jill Miller, Savannah’s mother.

Savannah was visibly upset and refused to have her vitals taken. Getting through the appointment was a struggle, but eventually Savannah warmed up to Thomsen.

“Will you be there?” Savannah asked Thomsen, referring to the day of the procedure. Read full post »


Miguel’s Journey to Take Back the Wheel After Cancer Diagnosis

Miguel Navarro, 18, was blindsided by a cancer diagnosis. Today, he’s on the road to recovery.

A single blow to 18-year-old Miguel Navarro’s shoulder turned his world upside down. He was boxing with his friends one afternoon when he felt a snap. He took a hit to his shoulder and immediately knew something was wrong.

“That punch altered my world,” said Miguel.

Miguel went to the emergency room where he found out he fractured his humerus, the long bone in the upper arm. Unfortunately, that wasn’t where his medical journey ended. While undergoing imaging, doctors noticed something amiss, and so Miguel underwent a myriad of tests. At the time, doctors thought what they saw in his imaging results could be a benign tumor.

On Dec. 12, 2017, Miguel was told the tumor wasn’t benign. He had osteosarcoma, an aggressive type of bone cancer. Read full post »


South Seattle Spreads Smiles in the Community

Dr. Seok Bee Lim has been practicing pediatric dentistry at Seattle Children’s Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic (OBCC) in the Central District for nearly 37 years. Although the neighborhood around her has changed since she started her career there, the mission of OBCC and the passion she has for caring for her patients has remained steadfast. Much like OBCC, Lim provides more than just healthcare; she’s part of the rich heritage OBCC was founded upon and the diverse community it serves.

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