Researcher Examines the Body’s Immune System in Search of Treatments for Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma is a primary bone cancer affecting approximately 400 children and adolescents in the United States each year. Current treatment for this cancer is usually extensive surgery followed by chemotherapy. Even with aggressive treatment, the survival rate is just 60-70%. Further, about 40% of patients with osteosarcoma experience metastatic (cancer that has spread) or recurrent disease. For these patients, the survival rates are even lower. New, more targeted approaches to treatment are needed to improve outcomes for patients with this cancer.

Recently awarded a Young Investigator grant by CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, Meenakshi Hegde, MD at Baylor College of Medicine is hoping her research on the body’s immune system, specifically T-cells, will lead to new treatment options. The job of the body’s immune system is to fight off disease, in this case, cancer. Thus, when an abnormal, or mutated, cell is created, the body should recognize it as different from the rest and eliminate it. When that doesn’t happen, diseases occur.

In osteosarcoma, the cancerous cells contain proteins that should not be present, causing the tumors to grow. Presence of these proteins varies from tumor to tumor and sometimes within a single tumor. Dr. Hegde hypothesizes that killing tumor cells using T-cells that recognize a single protein will result in the survival of tumor cells that do not express this protein leading to tumor recurrence after therapy. She plans to engineer T-cells, that are designed to target the two proteins most commonly expressed in osteosarcoma, with the goal of decreasing the risk of tumor recurrence.

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Late effects linked to poor quality of life in long-term childhood cancer survivors

Improved treatments and technologies are leading to more children than ever who survive cancer. Unfortunately, about 70% of these children experience late effects from their disease and treatment
30 years after their cancer diagnosis. These effects significantly impact their quality of life.

“The prevalence of these symptoms accounts for a huge variance in physical, mental, and social domains of quality of life among survivors,” said lead author I-Chan Huang, PhD, of the University of Florida Health College of Medicine in Gainesville. “If we think symptoms are the key to patients’ quality of life, then if we can better manage their symptoms, we can improve their daily functional status and quality of life.”

The study, which was conducted with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2013; doi:10.1200/JCO.2012.47.8867), analyzed data from 1,667 childhood cancer survivors who participated in a St. Jude study looking at the long-term effects of cancer survival. The researchers used a patient-reported survey to measure quality of life. A specific symptom scale was designed to assess toxicities related to cancer treatment as outlined in the Children’s Oncology Group guidelines.

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Meet the Children: Luke Anderson

Meghan Anderson is an experienced oncology nurse. So, when her 2-year-old son, Luke, had a fever that wasn’t getting better with over-the-counter medication, she checked his stomach to see if it was something else. What she discovered surprised her. Luke had a mass in his abdomen.

She rushed Luke to Wilson’s Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida for testing and hoped that it wasn’t cancer. Later that day, her worst fears were confirmed. Luke had stage IV Wilms tumor.

The tumor was located on his vena cava, a larger vein responsible for carrying blood to the heart. The location of this tumor made his treatment more complex. Luke would need chemotherapyradiation, and surgery to remove the tumor. Luke started chemotherapy right away in hopes of shrinking the tumor to make removal easier. On October 30, 2008 Luke had surgery to remove part of the tumor, and luckily it was successful.

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Day in the Life: Sarah Dill

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Sarah Dill’s grandmother showed her the importance of giving back from a young age. After losing her son to leukemia when he was just three, Sarah’s grandmother was passionate about supporting children’s cancer research and awareness – a passion she shares with her granddaughter.

Throughout high school, Sarah created and worked on Rockin’ for A Cure, a cancer benefit concert to raise

Sarah - MJCfunds for local children’s clinics and help families who had been affected by cancer. When Sarah was in college, she earned an internship with CH Robinson and was given the opportunity to work on the MJ Golf Classic, an annual event that brings together golfers in support of children’s cancer research and awareness. Her internship turned into a full time position, and Sarah enjoyed several years of giving back to the community through the MJ Golf Classic. Even though she left CH Robinson, Sarah wanted to stay involved with CureSearch and the MJ Golf Classic.

Her coworkers suggested that she join the CureSearch Walk committee and Sarah jumped at the opportunity. Sarah is now the Dallas/Fort Worth CureSearch Walk Sponsorship Chair and is excited to take on this new role with CureSearch.

Over the next several months, CureSearch will follow Sarah through the Walk planning process. Stay tuned for more from Sarah and the exciting process of planning a CureSearch Walk!

Researcher Examines Impact of Extra Chromosome on Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Human cells are made of many parts, including chromosomes which are organized structures of DNA. Their job is to help direct the actions of various types

of cells. There are 23 chromosomes and normally, each cell contains 2 copies of each chromosome for a total of 46 chromosomes. Scientists have long known that many types of cancer cells show either a gain or loss of specific chromosomes.

In Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a blood cancer that affects approximately 500 children each year, between 10-20% of patients have an extra chromosome 8, referred to as trisomy 8. David Gordon, MD, PhD at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA suspects that trisomy 8 contributes to the creation of cancerous cells because certain genes are expressed when an abnormal number of chromosomes are present. Understanding how these genes come to be present could lead to the development of targeted treatments.

To conduct his research, Dr. Gordon has developed three cells lines that are identical, except for the absence or presence of an extra chromosome 8. Using these cell lines, he will research the effect of trisomy 8 on the creation and continued growth of AML cells and investigate the relationship between trisomy 8 and specific genes that are known to cause cancer.

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Happy New Year!

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Daughter’s Memory Honored Through Ultimate Hike

Mother hikes so that one day, every child is guaranteed a cure

Emily McKelvey

When Amy’s daughter, Emily, was 17 she fulfilled a life-long dream of being camp counselor at Camp Lirecrest, her childhood camp. She loved getting to know the campers and helping them fall in love with the camp like she had when she was young. For one week during the summer, the camp was open only to children with cancer. Emily decided to stay and volunteer during that week, and was incredibly moved by how positive the kids were, despite their situations.

When Emily went home, she developed a sore throat. Her mom took her to the doctor, and when a mono and strep throat test came back negative, her doctor told her to rest and that she would start feeling better soon. She still wasn’t feeling better a week later, so her mother took her back to the doctor where a blood test was performed. The results shocked the family. Emily had leukemia.

Emily started treatment the same day, and only left the hospital for 7 days during the five months of her treatment. Her doctors believed that a bone marrow transplant was the best treatment option for Emily and began preparing her for the procedure. Luckily, a perfect match was found, and Emily underwent a bone marrow transplant on November 6, 2008. Although the transplant was successful, the chemotherapy that Emily received damaged her liver and she went into renal failure. After five months of fighting, Emily lost her battle.

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