Researcher Seeks to Understand the Inner Workings of Rhabdoid Tumors

Alex KentsisAlex Kentsis, MD, PhD, decided to study rhabdoid tumors because they remain one of the most lethal childhood cancers.  Rhabdoid tumors affect mainly infants and young children and can be found in the kidneys, liver, soft tissue, and brain. Most children diagnosed with a rhabdoid tumor that cannot be completely removed through surgical do not have effective treatment options.  As a pediatric oncologist and investigator at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr. Kentsis is working to understand the biology of this cancer, with a special emphasis on the genetic make-up of these tumors.

His research will focus on DNA sequences called transposons that can potentially move within cell genomes.  Almost half of the human genome is made up of DNA derived from ancient transposons, but their activity in tumor cells is not understood.  Researchers do know that when gone awry, they can potentially disrupt the normal workings of a cell.  Dr. Kentsis has found that in rhabdoid tumors, some of these transposons appear to be mobile with potential contributions to tumor’s growth and survival in response to chemotherapy.  Understanding of mobile DNA in rhabdoid tumors could ultimately help to lead to new treatments.

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Top Ten Reasons You Support CureSearch

You told us the Top Ten reasons you support CureSearch! Thank you to everyone who responded. At CureSearch, we are fighting for the future every child deserves and every parent dreams of, with support from people like you._TCP7704

1. Too many children are diagnosed with cancer; CureSearch is funding research that will lead to better treatments.

2. Because of the resources that CureSearch provides to patients and their families.

3. CureSearch supports research that is working towards finding a cure.

4. Because every child deserves the best treatment possible.

5. The CureSearch Walk allows me to raise awareness and funds for the 36 children diagnosed every day.

6. Through the Ultimate Hike, I can make a difference.

7. Because no parent should see their child suffer and through CureSearch we can find a cure.

8. Because CureSearch gives parents and children the voice they deserve in the fight against cancer.

9. CureSearch is focused on helping those children at the greatest risk of losing their battle.

10. Because the clinical trials that CureSearch supports allow patients to receive treatment at their local hospital.

Day in the Life: Megan Gertz

Megan GertzMegan Gertz is a Child Life Specialist at the Ronald McDonald Children’s Hospital at Loyola Medicine and also a committee member for the 2013 Chicago CureSearch Walk. Megan works with children and families to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization, illness, and disability. She provides children with age-appropriate preparation for medical procedures, pain management, and coping strategies, and play and self-expression activities. Megan also provides information, support and guidance to parents, siblings, and other family members.   CureSearch recently caught up with Megan to learn more about her role, and what led her to this profession.

Q: What lead you to becoming a Child Life Specialist?

A: In high school, I babysat for a family whose oldest daughter was diagnosed with Wilms tumor. I continued to babysit for her through college and saw how much she loved the Child Life Specialists who took care of her. She fought hard for years, but unfortunately when she relapsed for the fourth time, there was nothing else the medical professionals or her family could do. I came home to be with the family, and this sweet little girl said to me, “Meg, you would be a great teacher, but I think you should work with kids like me.” At the time, I was studying to be a teacher, but immediately changed my major in honor of her.

Q: What is an average day like for you at the hospital?

A:I work with inpatient, outpatient, radiology, oncology, ER, NICU, Burn units at my hospital, so I get to work with children of all ages. I run and manage the play room, teen room, radio station and school room. I spend most of my days working with inpatients and enjoy getting to know them. I interact with patients through medical and play therapy, music therapy, pet therapy, and art programs. I also work with the entire family to provide support for the new diagnosis or treatment plan.  It is wonderful that I have the privilege of working with some families from diagnosis, through treatment, and after treatment, which means I am able to establish long-term relationships with many of them.

Q: What is your favorite part of being a Child Life Specialist?

A: My favorite part of my job is getting to know the patients and their families. Each and every patient teaches me a new lesson every day. Children are very resilient and always have a smile on their face, no matter what they are going through. I have learned that every day is a gift and that we should all live our days to their fullest.

I have made helping children with cancer my life’s passion. I put everything into it, if there is anything that can be  done, I want to be there helping and making a difference.

Inherited Genetic Variations Have a Major Impact on Childhood Leukemia Risk

(PRNewswire-USNewswire) — Humans have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes that carry instructions for assembling the proteins that do the work of cells. Work led by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital found that children who inherit certain variations in four particular genes are at much higher risk of developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

The study also showed that Hispanic patients were more likely than patients of European or African ancestry to inherit high-risk versions of two of these genes. ALL rates are known to be higher among Hispanic children than those of European or African ancestry, this discovery points to at least one reason for that difference.

Each person’s genome includes two copies of each gene, one from each parent. Thus, individuals could inherit up to eight high-risk versions of the four genes tied to an increased ALL risk. In this study, researchers found that having more than five copies of the risk genes resulted in a nine-fold greater risk of developing ALL in childhood than inheriting no more than one copy…Read more

When Life Throws You a Curveball

This guest blog post by Zach Feuerherd

Zach Bald - School Picture

It’s almost baseball season. That means spring is on the horizon, and the majority of baseball fans have yet to have their hopes dashed. Some of my favorite memories growing up were watching and playing baseball. One particular baseball memory from my childhood still resonates with me today. The lessons I learned from that experience still guide and shape my life today.

That particular baseball season I was probably better suited for the “disabled list.” It was the fall of 1999, and six months earlier I had been diagnosed with cancer; specifically Leukemia just before my thirteenth birthday. I had always been a “Type A” kind of kid – lots of energy, always on the move, and I loved to play sports. That all changed the minute I heard the words…”you have cancer.”

I spent the next two weeks on the third floor of Children’s Hospital in Washington DC. Over the next six months I received a nasty cocktail of chemotherapy drugs. I lost my hair, my coordination, and thanks to the steroid Prednisone I was as chunky as the Pillsbury Doughboy. The poisons and procedures — Vincristine, Methotrexate, spinal taps, although necessary to destroy the cancer sometimes made it hard to walk, much less run. I was determined however to get back on the baseball field.

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Bob Evans Joins the Fight Against Children’s Cancer

When Bob Evans employee Bill and his wife found out that their seven-year-old son, Zach, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Bob Evans made a decision to join them in the fight against children’s cancer. Through a Facebook initiative, Bob Evans raisedBob Evans $10,000 for CureSearch to continue to fund innovated research. Bob Evans commitment to helping their community is shown through their dedication to organizations like CureSearch.

Zach chooses not to let cancer define who he is but uses cancer to show people how they can help. Bob Evans has decided to do the same thing.

Though Zach’s journey seems rough, he chooses not to let cancer define who he is but rather uses cancer to show people how they can help. Zach’s father Bill explains, “Zach has been our hero as he continues to show a positive attitude through the obstacles of having cancer and its treatments.  Zach tends to inspire and bring smiles to everyone he meets.”

Much like Zach, Bob Evans commitment to doing the right thing is not only found on the product guarantee on the back of every Bob Evans grocery product, but also in the way that they support their team members and communities. Please join CureSearch and Bob Evans in helping Zach and his family in their fight against cancer.

Help Bob Evans ensure that one day, every child is guaranteed to have a cancer-free future.

Asking Friends for Help

_TCP6421When a child is diagnosed with cancer, there is often an immediate outpouring of support from friends and community members wanting to help, often in the form of gifts for the child, calls to check-in, and food delivered to the family’s home.  Such support is wonderful, and greatly appreciated, but it may or may not be what is needed, and it often trickles off once the initial shock of the diagnosis has been accepted and a “new normal” of settling into treatment routines is established for the family.

So, how does a family ask for the support it needs, when it is needed. At CureSearch, we’ve worked hard to develop content for you about asking for help.  It may be that you don’t need food, but you need someone to go cheer for another child’s soccer game.  Or, maybe you and your spouse really need a “date night.” Or, perhaps you need someone else to update your child’s blog or Caring Bridge page during an especially busy and or difficult phase of treatment.

Whatever it is, we invite you to visit for ideas and suggestions about how and what to ask for friends and neighbors. You’ll be amazed how responsive people are if you simply ask!