Cancer and Blood Disorders

All Articles in the Category ‘Cancer and Blood Disorders’

Building Cure Takes the First Step Toward Living up to Its Name

In March 2021, Harper Chittim became the first patient to receive a cell therapy product manufactured at Building Cure.

Building Cure and Seattle Children’s Therapeutics are devoted to developing innovative therapies for childhood disease. Meet the first patient to receive a cell therapy treatment produced at Building Cure.

When Building Cure opened in fall 2019, Meagan Hollingshead and Josh Chittim had more pressing concerns. Their normally energetic 6-month-old daughter Harper was sick, and multiple visits to their doctor in Yakima had provided no answers.

But when Harper’s condition worsened and she started struggling to breathe, they took her to the emergency room, where bloodwork revealed the devastating cause: Harper had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

The doctor immediately sent them to Seattle Children’s.

“Meagan and Harper flew over to Seattle Children’s,” Chittim said. “And I drove there at 110 miles an hour.”

At that point, Hollingshead and Chittim weren’t aware Building Cure existed. They didn’t know how important the building, and the Seattle Children’s Therapeutics team it houses, would become to Harper’s future. And they had no idea Harper would receive the first cell therapy product manufactured there. Read full post »

Community Gathers to Cheer for Mercy on Her Way to Seattle Children’s for Last Round of Chemo

At 16 years old, Mercy Haub, was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma. She just finished her last round of chemotherapy at Seattle Children’s.

Mercy chronicles her journey through Instagram.

Mercy Haub has wanted to cure cancer since she was 7 years old.

“The irony of it all is unbelievable,” she said.

Today, at 16 years old, that mission still drives her, but now it hits closer to home, more so than she could have ever imagined.

A week before the statewide lockdown went into effect in Washington, Mercy began to feel sick. An assortment of unusual symptoms compounded on one another. She felt weak and fatigued, experienced chest pain and rashes. The symptoms persisted and eventually doctors were able to determine the insidious cause: cancer. Read full post »

When Your Child’s Life Is in Someone Else’s Hands: The Williamses Put Their Trust in Seattle Children’s Surgical Team

Kelli Williams gives her son, Isaac, who has been in remission for two years after undergoing treatment for stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma, a piggyback ride in the rain.

Kelli Williams holds her son, Isaac, who has been in remission for two years after undergoing treatment for stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma.

On July 19, 2017, Kelli and Dennis Williams sat in a pre-op room at Seattle Children’s with their 22-month-old son, Isaac. Kelli hugged her little boy close. He was dressed in a yellow hospital gown, happily playing with the iPad Child Life had loaned him. Kelli and Dennis did their best to appear calm in front of their son, but inside they were terrified.

Isaac had stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma. He’d already been through four months of chemotherapy and now Dr. John Waldhausen, a surgeon specializing in neuroblastoma cases, was going to remove a tumor the size of a navel orange from his abdomen.

“I had been so focused on managing Isaac’s treatment plan that it didn’t hit me until that morning that my son was about to be lying on an operating table,” remembered Kelli. “I just held him and tried not to cry.”

The day before Isaac’s surgery, the Williamses invited their family members and their church pastor into their home.

“We all circled around Isaac,” said Kelli. “Our pastor prayed over him, he prayed for Dr. Waldhausen, that his hands and his team would get out exactly what needed to come out, and nothing more.”

As they waited in the pre-op room, Kelli and Dennis realized it would be the last time they would see Isaac’s smooth, flawless belly. After surgery, he would have a large scar, stretching from hip to hip and up to his chest, a permanent reminder of his illness.

“I lifted up his shirt and tickled his stomach before he went in, knowing it would never look the same,” remembered Dennis. “It made me pretty sad.”

When a nurse came to get Isaac, Kelli reluctantly handed over her child.

“We’re going to take good care of him,” the nurse kindly reassured her.

Isaac happily waved goodbye to his mom and dad, and they kept up their smiles until he was out of sight. Then Kelli broke down, letting out all the tears she’d been holding back. Read full post »

Leaving “No Stone Unturned” for Children with High-Risk Leukemia

Henry Lawrence (left) with nurse coordinator, Shauna Sinclair. Henry received care for aggressive acute myeloid leukemia as part of Seattle Children’s High-Risk Leukemia Program.

There are two fateful phone calls Robin Lawrence will always remember.

The first, an unexpected late-night call from her son’s pediatrician. He had just reviewed the results from his recent blood work, and something was off. The doctor instructed Robin to immediately take then 13-month-old Henry to the nearest children’s hospital to get it checked out. He said that they had to consider it could be cancer.

She remembered thinking in the moment, “That’s ridiculous. Of course, he doesn’t have cancer.”

Days later, Henry was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), an aggressive childhood cancer.

The second call occurred not long after Henry’s leukemia returned for a third time. At the time, Henry was in between treatments. Another round of chemotherapy had temporarily put the cancer into remission, but the Lawrences knew the statistics were not in their favor. The likelihood the leukemia would come back was high.

Their conversation was the first of many with Dr. Todd Cooper, co-interim division chief of Seattle Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center and director of Seattle Children’s High-Risk Leukemia Program, as part of a second opinion service the program offers.

By the end of the call, Robin and her husband, David, knew Seattle Children’s was the best place for Henry should the cancer ever come back. In the coming weeks, they decided to move from their home in Southern California to Seattle for Henry’s medical care.

“When we talked to Dr. Cooper, it was very clear to us that Seattle Children’s is on the forefront of cutting-edge research and treatments for pediatric high-risk leukemia,” Robin said. “Our son’s cancer was in remission, but we understood that it was very likely to recur. We wanted to be in Seattle, ready to get whatever the best care for Henry would be when that time came.” Read full post »

Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s Contributes to FDA Approval of CAR T-Cell Immunotherapy Treatment for Adults with Relapsed or Refractory Large B-Cell Lymphoma

The Therapeutics Cell Manufacturing facility at Building Cure translates laboratory discoveries into real-world treatments.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 5 approved Bristol Myers Squibb’s Breyanzi, a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy used to treat adults with certain types of large B-cell lymphoma who have not responded to or who have relapsed after standard treatments.

The approval was supported by research at Seattle Children’s, including the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell product, patient product manufacturing for Juno Therapeutics’ TRANSCEND trial, and data from the Pediatric Leukemia Adoptive Therapy (PLAT-02) clinical trial. In the PLAT-02 clinical trial, 93% of patients with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia achieved initial remission, and about 50% were still in remission one year after therapy. Read full post »

Families Say Thank You to Russell Wilson: “You’re Our Man of the Year”

The Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award recognizes an NFL player for his excellence on and off the field. Every year, each NFL team nominates one player from their team who has had a significant positive impact on his community. This year, Russell Wilson was nominated for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award, and at Seattle Children’s we wanted to say congratulations and share how much Wilson means to us. Read full post »

From Patient Family to Employee, Rachel Robinson is Grateful for Seattle Children’s

Rachel Robinson and her family were on a family camping trip when she started to notice something was amiss with her son, Eli. He appeared pale, a hint of green to his complexion, and he was covered in bruises. His identical twin seemed fine, which added to Robinson’s concern.

She called their pediatrician, and they were advised to go to Seattle Children’s as soon as possible. After a blood test, doctors discovered something unimaginable. Eli had cancer.

“It’s something you think is never going to happen to you,” Robinson said. “You wonder if you did something wrong. It was surreal.” Read full post »

Santa Makes Virtual Visits to Seattle Children’s, Music Therapists Sing Carols

This year has been especially difficult for patients and families at Seattle Children’s. Spending time in the hospital is typically not a fun experience, and so for families who have to be inpatient during the holidays, the season may not feel as merry. To help spread joy and brighten up the holidays for children in the hospital, the Child Life team at Seattle Children’s found a new way for Santa to zoom into the hospital this year: they arranged virtual visits, because even during a pandemic, Santa wanted kids in the hospital to know he was thinking about them.

For Melissa Strilecki, 2020 has been more than a difficult year.

“2020 has been the worst year of our lives,” she said.

In May 2020, 3-year-old Hazel came down with what their family thought was a virus. At first, her symptoms didn’t seem insidious. She had a fever and was throwing up. A week later she started complaining of leg pain.

“She was in terrible pain,” Strilecki said. “We couldn’t even pick her up without her crying out.”

They called their pediatrician, and they were advised to take her to Seattle Children’s Emergency Department. At first, they thought her symptoms may have been caused by a bone infection, but after further testing, they received an unimaginable diagnosis: malignant cancer.

“You are told cancer is rare,” Strilecki said. “But it didn’t feel very rare.”

They were devastated. Read full post »

Option To Freeze Ovarian Tissue Gives Young Cancer Patients Hope for Future Fertility

Faye Prekeges’s senior photo, taken one year before her cancer diagnosis. Faye was the first patient at Seattle Children’s to have her ovary removed and frozen to try to preserve her fertility while undergoing treatment for high-risk leukemia.

At 19, Faye Prekeges was not planning for parenthood. She was a freshman at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. She spent her days thinking about majoring in French and dreaming of working with the United Nations Refugee Agency, not about whether she wanted to be a mother one day.

But an unexpected diagnosis changed all that.

Six weeks into her second semester, Faye began having high fevers and visited the university’s health clinic. Providers suggested she had the flu and would feel better in about a week, but her symptoms quickly grew worse. A few days later, she woke up with a fever of 104 degrees.

Faye thought to herself, “I need to see a doctor now.” She took an Uber to Boston Medical Center’s Emergency Department and tested positive for mononucleosis. They kept her overnight because her white blood cell count was abnormally low.

“Luckily, the woman looking at my slides noticed what she thought were blast cells (primitive, undifferentiated blood cells, often found in the blood of people with acute leukemia) and sent them to the pathologist, who confirmed they were,” Faye said.

She was transferred to Boston Children’s Hospital, where she was diagnosed with high-risk B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

“I believe everything happens for a reason,” Faye said. “I feel like, this happened to me and my family because we are strong enough to get through it.” Read full post »

Child Life Specialists Help Patients and Families Cope During Uncertain Times

No matter the circumstances outside the walls of the hospital, Seattle Children’s is steadfast in helping every child live the most fulfilling life possible. Although COVID-19 has halted many things in life, health is not one. Compassion and expert care are two infallible aspects that make Seattle Children’s a place families can count on when they need care, and supporting that relentless mission are the incredible health care workers at Seattle Children’s who continue to provide the best, safest care possible for patients and families.

This year, child life specialists at Seattle Children’s have worked tirelessly to try and make the hospital feel like the same inviting and safe place it has always been. They are heroes without capes. Child life specialists help make sure a family’s experience at the hospital is a positive one. As members of the health care team, they work directly with patients and families to help explain a medical diagnosis, create coping plans, teach relaxation techniques, and more.

Walk into the Emergency Department and patients and families will see the bright, welcoming eyes of Riley Coyle. Underneath her mask and face shield, she radiates light. With her warm and inviting personality, she helps patients and families navigate through what can be a traumatic experience. No family hopes to find themselves in the emergency department, but when they do, Coyle is happy to be there with a reassuring hand.

“It’s a huge honor to support our patients and families and be a part of their journey,” Coyle said. “It’s really rewarding, and I try to do anything and everything I can to help them.” Read full post »