UMMC expert: Research ‘bedrock’ of childhood cancer battle
Published on Tuesday, August 29, 2017
By: Annie Oeth
NOTE: This article originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of CONSULT, UMMC's monthly electronic newsletter. To have CONSULT, and more stories like this, delivered directly to your inbox, click here to subscribe.
Analiese Cook is going into September with a new hair color.
The 5-year-old used to have a head full of light blonde hair before she lost it all in the bout she is winning against cancer.
These days, just after her two-year diagnosis “cancer-versary,” Analiese is sporting a newly grown wavy side-swept bob that’s several shades darker than her pre-leukemia hair.
“She’s getting used to it,” said her mother, Angela Cook of Brookhaven.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, highlighting the need for more research into the causes of and potential cures for the dread disease. According to the National Cancer Institute, in the U.S. this year, an estimated 10,270 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed among children 14 and younger.
Analiese may be small, but don’t let her hair bows and ruffles make you think she is anything less than a warrior.
“She met cancer head on,” Angela said. “I couldn’t be more proud of her and I can’t wait to see the woman she grows up to be. She has such a spirit.”
Analiese’s cancer journey began when, at age 3, she began to run a high fever.
“We went immediately to the pediatrician,” Angela said, “and I thought it would be strep or an ear infection.”
Analiese began taking antibiotics on a Tuesday. By that Friday, she was pale, lethargic and vomiting.
“I had to carry her in to see her doctor because she couldn’t even walk,” Angela said.
Analiese was treated in the emergency room at King’s Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven before being airlifted to Batson Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and its Children’s Cancer Center.
The experience, Angela said, was surreal.
“It was like I was there, but not there,” she said. “I was coping with hearing those four words: ‘Your child has cancer.’”
Analiese was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow and the most common type of cancer in children. Rounds of chemotherapy and radiation followed. Within the first 30 days, Analiese’s leukemia was in remission.
“She’s done extremely well,” Angela said. “She still has six more months of chemo and then will have check-ups to see how she’s doing.”
Research is improving patient outcomes, reducing the pediatric cancer death rate by about 70 percent during the past four decades. But more research funding is needed, said Dr. Gail Megason, medical director of the Children’s Cancer Center at Batson Children’s Hospital.
“Research is the bedrock of our success stories in childhood cancer,” Megason said. “Several cancers, such as leukemias and lymphomas, have cure rates approaching 90 percent, and others, such as Hodgkin’s and Wilms’, is in the 95 percent range.
“All of this success is due to research.”
Megason said the goal now is to achieve a cure with fewer long-term side effects.
“Newer therapies that are molecularly or genetically driven will enhance this research efforts.”
To learn more or to help in the fight against childhood cancer, visit https://www.umc.edu/givenow/.