Incredible Medical Advances Taking Place at BC Children’s Hospital

October 14, 2009 at 4:54 pm 1 comment

Just yesterday, the Super Community ELLA – Everyone Loves Little Angels announced that Ella’s final diagnosis had been made. Although the news comes to late to save little Ella, her mom said:

Ella – my little zebra (as she was known to the medical team) – will serve as a guide for research so that one day, when another little one presents itself with symptoms similar to hers, the doctors and genetic team will be able to identify and maybe even help cure that little one.

Researchers are working hard to improve outcomes for children suffering hundreds of different diseases. Just today, the Vancouver Sun ran an article on our very own Dr. Kirk Schultz and the amazing work he and his research team are doing to save children from childhood cancer.

Here is the article:

New hope for kids with leukemia as new drug boosts survival rates:  New drug sends survival rate soaring from 30% to 87%, B.C.-led study says

By Pamela Fayerman, VANCOUVER SUN October 11, 2009

Two-year-old Luke Derksen plays with one of his trucks Monday while his mom Kama looks on. Luke is taking a new drug to fight leukemia and he’s responding so well ‘it’s like a miracle,’ Kama says.

Two-year-old Luke Derksen plays with one of his trucks Monday while his mom Kama looks on. Luke is taking a new drug to fight leukemia and he’s responding so well ‘it’s like a miracle,’ Kama says.  Photograph by: ward perrin, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER – The addition of a new “targeted” drug more than doubled survival rates for children with a rare but formerly quite lethal subtype of leukemia, according to a North American study led by B.C. Children’s Hospital oncologist Dr. Kirk Schultz.

The study was submitted to a cancer journal for publication earlier than expected because of the stunning results showing three-year survival rates of 87 per cent compared to 30 to 35 per cent before use of the drug called imatinib (commercial name, Gleevec). Further analysis of the data is now looking at whether survival rates are just as good at four years and beyond.

Two-year-old Luke Derksen is one B.C. patient who’s been on it since being diagnosed with leukemia just before Thanksgiving last year.

Luke hadn’t been born when the study took place but he’s now taking Gleevec, crushed up in the only medium he finds tolerable — chocolate soy milk.

Kama Derksen, Luke’s mother, said she shudders to even think about how poor the Chilliwack toddler’s prognosis might have been had he been diagnosed before the study showed improved odds with the addition of Gleevec in the type of cancer he has — Philadelphia chromosome-positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (Ph+ALL).

However, Derksen, who has four other young children besides Luke, said in an interview that while she and her husband occasionally fret about worst case scenarios, they’re completely upbeat this Thanksgiving because “we look at our son and see how well he is responding to treatment and it’s like a miracle.”

This time last year, Luke felt miserable and had reverted to crawling because of fatigue. When admitted to Children’s Hospital last October, Schultz and his many co-researchers were serendipitously readying their study paper for publication submission. No time was wasted in getting Luke on the drug, which costs the health care system about $80,000 per year per patient.

“It’s been exciting to be part of this study. The results were much better than initially expected,” said Schultz, who oversaw the trial funded by the U.S. government-financed National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The Phase 2 trial was conducted at 20 cancer centres, mostly in the U.S. (only two in Canada, Halifax and Vancouver).

“Using imatinib, plus chemotherapy had a synergistic type of interaction. Although it’s very promising, we need to do more follow up to get to the five-year survival data and determine the long-term survival.

“We submitted our study for publication (in the Journal of Clinical Oncology) earlier instead of waiting because the data was so exciting and this type of leukemia is such high risk,” added Schultz, who’s also head of childhood cancer research at the Child and Family Research Institute…
Click here to link to the story in the Vancouver Sun.


Entry filed under: Super Community.

Don’t forget to submit your Super Kid nominations Pediatric Cancer at BC Children’s Hospital

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Dad  |  October 14, 2009 at 5:15 pm

    Thanks for sending the link. Nice to have a chance to see more of your work.


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