Cancer and Blood Disorders

All Articles in the Category ‘Cancer and Blood Disorders’

Fighting for Their Lives: Seattle Children’s Immunotherapy Journey

At Seattle Children’s, many children and young adults with cancer are finding hope in T-cell immunotherapy – an experimental treatment that boosts a patient’s immune system and uses it to fight a disease.

Seattle Children’s researchers are leading clinical trials in which a patient’s T cells are reprogrammed to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) on the surface of the cell. The CAR is like a puzzle piece that’s designed to attach perfectly to a specific antigen or marker on the surface of the cancer cell. When they attach, the CAR T cells attack the cancer cells as if they were fighting an infection.

In just five years, Seattle Children’s cancer immunotherapy program has grown tremendously to include trials that target leukemia, brain and spinal cord tumors and solid tumors. Curious how these clinical trials work? Read on to learn more about the immunotherapy clinical trial process at Seattle Children’s.

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Harper Beare is ‘Doing Something Amazing’

Harper was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was just 10 months old.

When asked about the birth of her daughter Harper, Sydney Beare lights up.

“Harper was 8 pounds, 1 ounce, 21.5 inches and the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen!” she said.

By all accounts, Harper was an exceptionally happy, and seemingly healthy, baby. She began sleeping though the night when she was just a few days old and almost never fussed, even when teething. Beare said her daughter was “totally content.”

But in July 2017, when Harper was 9 months old, she became seriously ill.

Harper first developed an ear infection, a staph infection and had an infected cut on her finger. During the next month she became lethargic and pale.

Beare noticed bruises on her legs, and later on her back and face. Harper began having diarrhea and vomiting. She also slept all the time. Despite all this, Harper’s well-child checkup in August revealed no concerns.

Then, on Aug. 21, Harper woke up with a fever.

“She was just lying there, with dry, cracked lips, screaming,” Beare remembered, choking back tears. “I was worried something was wrong but I pushed that idea aside because I didn’t want to think anything bad could happen to my baby.”

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Bretton Refuses to Let Cancer Keep Him Off the Ice

Bretton Chitwood, 18, is an avid hockey player. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in 2016, but has since returned to the ice. He now plays with a custom prosthesis.

On May 18, 2016, Kara Chitwood and her son Bretton Chitwood traveled from their home in Lynden, Washington, to Seattle Children’s for what they thought would be a routine outpatient appointment to get magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on Bretton’s ankle. Instead, they didn’t end up leaving the hospital. That day would become one they would never forget.

The pain Bretton was experiencing in his ankle was more insidious than they could have ever imagined. Doctors found a mass and said they needed to do a biopsy to determine what it was. One possibility was the unthinkable: cancer. Read full post »

Emmy’s Journey to Overcome Cancer, From Small Steps to Miraculous Leaps

When Emmy Cole was 2 years old, her mother noticed her struggling to walk. She grabbed her cell phone and tearfully recorded Emmy wince in pain as she took only a few, small steps. She knew something was terribly wrong with her daughter. Immediately after, they came to Seattle Children’s in search of answers. Emmy didn’t walk the rest of the day.

They received heartbreaking news. Dani and James Cole, Emmy’s parents, faced the unimaginable reality of helping their daughter through a devastating diagnosis: cancer.

On April 13, 2015, Emmy was diagnosed with high risk neuroblastoma.

Watch Emmy’s story from the beginning, from small, painful steps, to miraculous leaps. Read full post »

I Was Not Ready to Die: How Seattle Children’s Immunotherapy Saved My Life

Aaron (left) poses with Dr. Mike Jensen, director of the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, at the Strong Against Cancer CELLebration fundraising event.

Seattle Children’s doctors and researchers are leading efforts to better treat cancer in children, adolescents and young adults by boosting the immune system with T-cell immunotherapy. Patients who cannot be cured with standard therapies are benefiting from clinical trials developed at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research, and supported by the Strong Against Cancer initiative. 

One of these patients is Aaron. When he feared he might be out of treatment options, Aaron found hope at Seattle Children’s. Now, he shares his story.

Cancer is such an ugly word. On the internet, it has become normal for people to use it to describe things, ideas or people they don’t like. But for me, that word only brings back painful memories of fighting a disease I would not wish on my worst enemies.

I was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January 2013. I was 19 years old, living in Vancouver, Canada, and studying computer science at Simon Fraser University.

I became suddenly ill while on a cruise vacation with my family. I had a fever that wouldn’t go away; nausea for no reason; and extreme fatigue. I needed to sleep all the time. I could barely walk. Climbing a flight of stairs felt like trying to climb Mount Everest.

We knew something was very wrong, so my family took me to the Emergency Department at Vancouver General Hospital.

I still remember lying on the hospital bed after the doctor delivered the bad news — I had leukemia. I couldn’t believe it. I asked the nurse as he was putting in my IV, “How long do you think it’ll take before I get better?”

He replied, “My friend, I’m afraid this is just the beginning of a long and difficult journey for you.”

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Matched to the Perfect Target, Drug Dramatically Shrinks Tumors in All Ages, Multiple Cancers

Ashton Leeds, 8, was treated with larotrectinib at Seattle Children’s for thyroid cancer that had spread to his lungs and lymph nodes.

EDITOR’S UPDATE: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the cancer drug Vitrakvi (previously known as larotrectinib). Vitrakvi is indicated for the treatment of adult and pediatric patients with metastatic or unresectable solid tumors that have a NTRK gene fusion without a known acquired resistance mutation, and have no satisfactory alternative treatments options or whose cancer has progressed following treatment. Read more about this landmark decision. 

Dr. Doug Hawkins, division chief of Hematology and Oncology at Seattle Children’s, remembers matching one of the first pediatric cancer patients to an experimental drug that targets a specific set of genetic alterations associated with soft tissue tumors. The drug, larotrectinib, is designed to selectively stop the resulting abnormal tropomyosin receptor kinase (TRK) fusion proteins from promoting cancer cell growth.

“I was so excited to share the test results with the family and present them with the option of enrolling in a clinical trial for this new medication,” Hawkins said. “At the time, I had a pretty good inkling the drug was going to work, but there was very limited evidence of its effectiveness in children. It’s incredibly special that families were willing to take a chance on this drug early on.”

Today, the promising evidence in support of larotrectinib is building. A paper published in The New England Journal of Medicine documents the drug’s effectiveness in treating TRK fusion-positive cancers regardless of patient age or tumor type. The paper includes data from 55 patients, ages 4 months to 76 years and representing 17 different TRK fusion-positive tumor types, treated with larotrectinib. Overall, 75% of patients responded to the treatment and at one year, 71% experienced no disease progression since starting treatment. Read full post »

Discover the Seattle Children’s Stories You Might Have Missed in 2017

With 2018 in full effect, On the Pulse is taking a moment to hit rewind to share five stories that might have floated beneath the flurry of headlines in 2017.

We invite you to take a look back at some of last year’s stories that inspired us and gave us hope.

1. A Mother’s Intuition Leads to Picture-Perfect Treatment of Eye Cancer

Courtesy of Amanda De Vos Photography

Amanda De Vos, a professional photographer, was reviewing shots she took of her 15-month-old identical twin daughters, Julia and Jemma, when a photo of Julia caught her attention.

De Vos would learn that the photo she took of Julia would help to identify a rare eye cancer, retinoblastoma, that was stopped in its tracks with an innovative treatment at Seattle Children’s.

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Seahawks Visit Seattle Children’s, Spread Cheer to 12s in the Hospital

Nico, 15, got a surprise visit from the Seahawks and Sea Gals.

Today, rounds of a different kind were made. Instead of doctors in white coats, the Seattle Seahawks and members of the Sea Gals, dressed in blue and green, made their way through the hospital to visit patients and families at Seattle Children’s. They couldn’t have picked a better day to bring cheer to 12s in the hospital: Dec. 12 (12/12).

“Today brought us a lot of joy, even if it was just for a minute,” said Alberto Tobias, father of Nico Tobias, a patient at Seattle Children’s. “It was really fun. We were so happy to see the players walk into our room.”

The Captain’s Blitz is an annual tradition that brightens the day for Seahawks fans big and small at Seattle Children’s. Read full post »

Erin Celebrates Major Milestones After One Year in Remission

For the first time in her life, 7-year-old Erin Cross was healthy enough to go trick-or-treating.

This Halloween marked a monumental milestone for 7-year-old Erin Cross. For the first time in Erin’s life, she was healthy enough to go trick-or-treating. And her costume of choice – an old woman – held a special meaning for her family.

Two years ago, Erin’s family was facing the devastating reality that they may never see her grow up. But today, she’s in remission thanks to a groundbreaking immunotherapy clinical trial at Seattle Children’s. Her family finally has the chance to envision her long life ahead, a life filled with normal things, like trick-or-treating and playing with other kids.

“Erin has been so incredibly brave,” said her mother, Sarah Cross. “For us, normal was being in the hospital. Today, she’s cancer-free and getting back to normal life.” Read full post »

Transforming Care for Children With High-Risk Leukemia

Dr. Todd Cooper leads Seattle Children’s High-Risk Leukemia Program.

Seattle Children’s is getting set to launch a program that will redefine how we care for children with “high-risk” leukemia – or leukemia that doesn’t respond well to standard treatments and/or has relapsed after therapy.

Unfortunately, less than 40% of children with high-risk leukemia will live for more than four years after they’re diagnosed. Our new High-Risk Leukemia Program aims to cure more of these children by uniting their doctors onto one team, and by using state-of-the-art diagnostic tests to match kids with the latest treatments and clinical trials. The program will also partner with researchers to pursue new treatments and cures.

The first-of-its-kind program is expected to attract patients and families from across the country, and it’s being led by Dr. Todd Cooper as part of his lifelong mission to improve care for children with high-risk leukemia. On the Pulse sat down with Cooper to learn about how the new program will transform care and bring new hope to children and families. Read full post »