At most hospitals, children with relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who aren’t responding well to chemotherapy would be running out of options. But Seattle Children Research Institute’s researchers are one step closer to finding a cure. Starting this month, patients who have relapsed ALL will have the option of participating in a new clinical trial if they are not responding to chemotherapy and have a less than 20 percent chance of survival.
Harnessing life-saving cells in patients’ blood
The new treatment—called cellular immunotherapy—involves drawing blood from the patient, reprogramming their infection-fighting T cells to find and destroy cancer cells, and infusing the blood back into their body.
Only three other institutions in the country are conducting this type of clinical trial, which involves using a specialized high-tech facility to manufacture the personalized therapy using each patient’s blood.
In April 2013, Seattle Children’s will open Building Hope, a new facility that will house a new cancer inpatient unit with 48 single patient rooms. Additionally, Building Hope will include 32 private rooms for critical care treatment and a new Emergency Department.
The cancer care space will span two floors and offer several features that will make a patient and their family’s stay as personalized and comfortable as possible.
A 16-bed teen and young adult cancer space will occupy its own floor, where patients will benefit from the support of their peers in an age-appropriate environment. No other hospital in the United States currently offers a dedicated inpatient unit of this size for the care of teens and young adults with cancer.
Imagine a prowler casing a neighborhood, looking for a way into a home. That’s essentially what HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, does: It moves through the bloodstream trying to gain entry to T-cells — the primary warrior of the immune system. A special receptor on the T-cell’s surface (called CCR5) is the open door it seeks. Once it gains entry, the virus hampers a T-cell’s ability to do its job, leaving people vulnerable to infection and disease — and enabling HIV to spread.
Now imagine you can lock that door forever. The virus can’t enter the T-cells and interfere with the immune system and the body can fight off the infection.
Drs. Dave Rawlings, Andy Scharenberg and a team at Seattle Children’s are getting close to making that vision a reality. Working with colleagues at University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the Northwest Genome Engineering Consortium, they have figured out how to modify genes and knock the CCR5 receptor off T-cells.
Many of the cancer patients at Seattle Children’s Hospital are here for months at a time and far from the comforts of home – including the presence of their much-loved family pets. To make matters worse, these patients often need to be in isolation due to their compromised immune systems, cutting them off from the social support that can be a lifeline during a long course of treatment.
Maga Barzallo Sockemtickem is one such patient. Maga spent more than seven months at Children’s in 2011 waiting for a compatible bone marrow donor, eventually undergoing a transplant. A 16-year-old cat-lover, back at Children’s for post-transplant treatment, Maga is confined to her room and hasn’t seen her beloved cat, Merry, in nearly a month.
The staff at Children’s decided to do something about that. While they couldn’t bring Merry to Maga, they did the next best thing. A call to Children’s Facebook fans to post their favorite cat photos for Maga sparked an overwhelming response: fans sent more than 3,000 photos along with comments and heartfelt get well wishes.
Maga, touched by the outpouring of support, responded with …”You guys remind me that there is so much good in the world, and it just makes me feel so much better, and connected. I can’t tell you how it feels sometimes, feeling disconnected and cut off from the world, and then with something like cat pictures bringing me back. Thank you all for your kind words, and well wishing. Its means more than you can ever know. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you…”
With more than enough photos, staff got to work and created the Cat Immersion Project. Using the photos fans sent and adding some creative magic with sound, sheets, and projectors, they created a virtual cat cocoon, making Merry seem just a little bit closer.
Watch Maga experience the Cat Immersion installation for the first time:
They say that humor can be great medicine and this rings true for 18-year-old Abigale Hamlin, a leukemia patient being treated in Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program. Abigale says that a good dose of laughter in her situation helps her to see and think of things in a different light.
Last year, when she first heard Chris Brown’s song featuring Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, “Look At Me Now,” her witty and creative nature took hold and her inner rapper emerged as she flowed to the beats with her own lyrics that described what she was going through, “Look at me now, look at me now, I’m losin’ hair-air, or I’m gettin’ che-mo.”
“I’m the kind of person who sings a song and puts my own words to it because I think it is funny,” says Abigale. “Then I thought, how funny would it be if I took the lyrics and made this song cool and funny in my own way!” Read full post »
It didn’t take Kelly Clarkson very long to find out about Seattle Children’s Hospital patient Chris Rumble’s uplifting music video of her song “Stronger.” Chris posted the video on Sunday and by Tuesday Kelly tweeted, “Oh my goodness y’all have to see this! It’s beautiful! I can’t wait to visit these kids and nurses! It’s Seattle Children’s Hospital, I believe. God Bless y’all!”
Kelly was so moved that today she sent a video response to Chris and all the patients, families, and staff in Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Hematology Oncology unit. Everyone was so excited to hear from her, including many of the video’s star performers.
Check out Kelly’s video and the excitement it created with our patients, families and staff:
Saturday, May 5th, was unlike any other day on Seattle Children’s Hospital’s Hematology Oncology floor. The beats of Kelly Clarkson’s song “Stronger” rang through the halls as patients sang out the familiar chorus, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…”
Doctors, nurses, parents and patients showed off their best dance moves while harmonizing to the tune with big smiles on their face. Patients held up signs with the words “hope” and “fighter” – all communicating the important message that they are strong.
This fun celebration of strength was thanks to Chris Rumble, a 22-year-old Children’s cancer patient who lives in Kent, Wash., who was recently diagnosed with leukemia in April. Chris had the idea to make a music video to share with his old hockey team in Wenatchee because his teammates had made him a music video for his birthday. Read full post »
For children and their families, surviving cancer is an incredible triumph. The good news is that about 80 percent of children who have cancer now survive their disease (National Cancer Institute). However, this important milestone also marks the beginning of a child’s lifelong journey as a cancer survivor – A journey that may be difficult as their disease and treatment can affect their health for many years to come.
While cancer recurrence may be the overriding fear for many cancer survivors, a recent national study found that nearly half of survivors die of something other than cancer later in life, such as heart disease or diabetes, underscoring the importance of survivors being aware of their long-term risks and overall health. This especially rings true for childhood cancer survivors where about two-thirds suffer from at least one chronic health condition and about one-third have a life-threatening condition, according to a 2006 study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Read full post »
Seattle Children's complies with applicable federal and other civil rights laws and does not discriminate, exclude people or treat them differently based on race, color, religion (creed), sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin (ancestry), age, disability, or any other status protected by applicable federal, state or local law. Financial assistance for medically necessary services is based on family income and hospital resources and is provided to children under age 21 whose primary residence is in Washington, Alaska, Montana or Idaho.