Why Painting Tumors Could Make Brain Surgeons Better

Tumor Paint

(NPR.org) – September 12, 2013: Perhaps one of the most uncomfortable things a doctor has to tell patients is that their medical problems are iatrogenic. What that means is they were caused by a doctor in the course of the treatment.

Sometimes these iatrogenic injuries are accidental. But sometimes, because of the limits of medical technology, they can be inevitable. Now, a medical researcher in Seattle thinks he has a way to eliminate some of the inevitable ones.

James Olson is a physician at the Seattle Children’s Hospital, where he primarily takes care of kids with brain cancer. He’s also a cancer researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

MRI reveals the location of a brain tumor. But it’s one thing to see the tumor in a scan, quite another to find the tumor in a living brain. Olson says that today, surgeons splay open the brain in an effort to find exactly where the tumor is.

Just doing that can cause problems. And the surgeons can’t always tell tumor cells from healthy brain cells, so inevitably the thorough doctors remove some healthy cells too.

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Day in the Life: Dr. Kolb

dr kolb 3

E. Anders Kolb, MD is a pediatric oncologist at Nemours/ Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware. Dr. Kolb Goes MOM on Cancer every day striving to provide his patients with the best possible care. He loves getting to know his patients and their families and will stop at nothing to be the best doctor he can.  CureSearch recently caught up with him to learn more about why he chose pediatric oncology medicine.

Q:  What drew you to pediatric oncology?

A:  I have always felt a passion for science and medicine, but I was drawn to pediatric oncology because of the highly personal care that is given to each patient and family. I enjoy getting to know patients on a personal level, while guiding them through the challenging experience of
cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Q:  What is the hardest part of being a doctor?

A:  When I have to deliver bad news, it breaks my heart. I try to make it as comforting as possible and help patients and families get through the experience. Sharing bad news in a manner that is understandable and informative is imperative. It is also very difficult. But, these experiences have molded me as a physician and person and I am grateful to all my patients and their families for that.

Q:  What is your favorite part of working in pediatric oncology?

A:  Whenever I talk to people outside of the cancer world, they remark on how difficult it must be to work with children. While I agree that it is challenging, the joy that I get from taking care of kids is immeasurable. I believe that how we take care of our kids is a real reflection of who we are as a society, so I try to give the best care I can, every day.

I had one patient in particular who wanted to go skydiving. We had to pull a lot of strings to put together the trip, but we were able to in the end with a lot of help from the community. I was a surprised and a bit scared when he asked me to go with him. In the end I decided to go. The courage he showed every day in fighting his cancer was nothing compared to the courage I needed to fall from a plane. Our children push us in ways that are unexpected and amazing.

Gene for most common childhood cancer identified

stained ALL leukemia bone marrow cells

An aberrant gene has been found to cause the most common childhood cancer in the world, pre-B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia or ALL.

The gene, PAX5, has long been known to be involved in ALL. The new study indicates a mutation in the gene alone is sufficient to eventually cause the disease. ALL affects nearly 3,000 children and teenagers in the United States each year.

The discovery should make it possible to screen for the gene in families with a history of the disease and suggests new strategies for treating the disease, said Dr. Marshall Horwitz, professor of pathology and of medicine at the University of Washington. He is a co-author of the new study.

He was joined in the study by researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee led by Dr. Charles Mullighan; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City led by Dr. Kenneth Offit, and others at the UW. The results were published Sept. 8 in the journal Nature Genetics.

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Momcology: No One Fights Alone

This guest blog post by Melanie Bimson is a co-founder of Momcology, Ultimate Hiker 2012, and mom to Piper and Pierce. Pierce has been a survivor since 2008.


When you have a child, you prepare for a lot of different things. Preparing for a childhood cancer diagnosis isn’t typically one of them. When we were thrust into that world, our son was just 18-months-old, we were lost.

There are a lot of different routes that you can go when you hear your child has cancer. Some people choose to read anything and everything they can get their hands on, others worry constantly, some become angry. I chose to live our lives as we had, but be vigilant, and to enjoy life as much as we could. Also, I didn’t read anything about cancer. Statistics don’t matter when you are watching your child fight for their life.

Our family, like so many, went through huge changes – we went from cereal and goldfish to chemo and steroids. We had appointment after appointment, and endured scares where we almost lost our son. Through it all, I stopped spending time with friends. As kind and as concerned as they were, it became awkward. No one wanted to complain about their child having a rough night of sleep when they had just watched my bald toddler vomit in the corner.

Eventually, I shut down. It wasn’t until I met Kim Buff, a fellow cancer mom, that I realized I had a whole world of new friends that understood my feelings. Kim was the first friend who never said, “I can’t imagine” – because she could.

Over the first year of our friendship, Kim and I took a Facebook group she had started and turned it into Momcology, a grassroots movement that connects cancer mothers and primary caregivers. Our one little group has grown to more than 35 groups. We have diagnosis groups, regional groups, and specialty groups – even a group for dads. All of our members are immediately connected through a shared experience, and we are collaborating as a community of caretakers to change the way the childhood cancer journey feels. Whether in the hospital, or in a remote location in the middle of the night, there is always someone logged on to guide mothers through the huge celebrations and the impossible moments that are part of being a mother of a child with cancer. We communicate about everything – chemo, protocols, advocacy, awareness, schools, and we supply many virtual hugs from hearts that bear the same scars left by childhood cancer. Our goal is simple: No one fights alone…ever! This is how I (and the Momcology Community) GO MOM on cancer.

In the world of pediatric oncology, it is often the mothers who find themselves deep in the trenches of awareness, fundraising, and fighting for a cure. We usually do this as we are simultaneously caring for our child. We believe it will be the mothers who will ultimately push a final cure through the finish line, because quite simply; the stakes aren’t higher for anyone else.

To learn more about Momcology, please visit www.momcology.org.

Bronies for Good

Bronies for Good started when a group of Bronies, fans of the show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, decided that they wanted to help people in their community. They created an organization that was committed to fostering the growth of a global community of caring, socially conscious individuals through the organization of service events worldwide. Their first project was a month-long, community wide blood drive in 2010 called “Nurse Redheart’s Roundup.” After the success of this event, the group put together many successful events like toy drives and charity albums in the years that followed. What started as a small way to engage their community, turned into an international operation partnered with organizations concerned with gender equitable education and international development, such as Room to Read and Your Siblings.

This year, the Bronies for Good were looking for a way to give back to children with cancer and found that CureSearch for Children’s Cancer’s approach to funding innovative research and helping in the community matched their vision. When BronyCon 2013, a convention held for fans of the cartoon My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, came to Baltimore, Bronies for Good decided to pair a charity auction with the event. The auction had more than 90 items from autographed Pony paraphernalia, custom crafts, art, and more. The audience of more than 2,000 fans helped raise $23,000 for CureSearch to support research in children’s cancer.

Because of organizations like Bronies for Good, CureSearch is able to continue to fund innovative and critical research, so that one day every child will be guaranteed a cure. To learn more about other organizations who are joining the fight against children’s cancer, click here.

“If I could do one thing, I would cure cancer.”

This Mom Goes MOM on Cancer

Christy Jones 2

When Christy’s son Gavin was 9-years-old, he was diagnosed with a germinoma brain tumor that was the size of an orange. After his diagnosis, he underwent surgery to remove the tumor, followed by chemotherapy and radiation. When Gavin was diagnosed, Christy’s heart broke; she couldn’t believe that they had found a tumor in her son. “Gavin was amazing he took everything so well, telling me, ‘it’s good Mom. They found what is wrong with me and I will be fixed and you don’t have to worry anymore,’” says Christy.  She took that spirit with her throughout treatment, trying to remember that if her son could handle it, so could she. No matter what, they were going to Go MOM on Cancer.

Treatment was terrible for the family; Gavin had trouble remembering simple tasks, and would be in immense amounts of pain, with no way to communicate it. “Watching your son get sick over and over and over again having no way to make him feel better at all,” says Christy. “That is my job – being a mother and taking care of him, and making him feel better. I couldn’t help him, I hated it.” She became an advocate for her son, looking for ways to comfort him during treatment, and ways to help him thrive now that he is cancer free.

Now three years cancer free, Christy and her family began looking for a way to help Gavin and others like him. They came across the Kansas City CureSearch Walk, and immediately signed up. They loved the sense of community that the Walk had, and can’t wait to return next year. “Walking for a purpose was great. It was amazing to see all the people come together to walk for a cure,” explains Christy.

Christy fought hard for her son throughout treatment and now she continues to Go MOM on Cancer, so that other moms don’t have to watch their children suffer.

“If I could do one thing in the world, I would cure cancer,” she says.

Go MOM on Cancer Launches September 1

MOM. It’s Not Just a Name. It’s a Verb.

Go MOM on Cancer

Who’s your favorite mom? Think about that for a minute.

Think about how she is, or was, with her kids. She is their teacher, playmate, disciplinarian, safety blanket, and best advocate. And, you know the difference between when she is MOMMY and MOM, right? When she’s in “MOM mode” and advocating for her children, you don’t really want to mess with her. After all, she is relentless, fighting hard, and sacrificing anything to help her children.

Well, this September during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, at CureSearch we’re taking that “MOM mode” and making it into a verb. Because whether you’re a mom, a dad, a grandparent, sibling, doctor, friend, or anyone else who loves, or has loved, a child with cancer, you know that it’s that MOM energy that is required in the pursuit of cures.

So join us, and Go MOM on Cancer. Follow this link to learn more.