Levine Children’s Hospital: We’re Doing All We Can to End Childhood Cancer

Content provided by Levine Children’s Hospital

Today, the 5-year survival rate for those with childhood cancers stands at more than 80 percent – up more than 20 points since the 1970s.

That’s encouraging news for families with children with cancer. But there’s still a long way to go, especially when funding for pediatric cancer remains low.

Here at Levine Children’s Hospital, we’re doing all we can to cure the incurable. We sat down with some of the cancer specialists at LCH to hear what excites them about cancer care here in the greater Charlotte area.

Personalized medicine. As part of the Beat Childhood Cancer initiative, LCH researchers are investigating tailored courses of chemotherapy based on a person’s individual genetic makeup. “We give you a personal answer, telling you what drugs may work for a specific tumor. For people who have gone through chemotherapy, that is a very unique thing,” says Javier Oesterheld, MD, medical director for pediatric hematology, oncology, and blood and marrow transplantation.

New technology for rare nerve cancer. LCH is building a dedicated lead-lined room to deliver a special kind of therapy called MIBG to treat neuroblastoma, a form of high-risk nerve cancer. We’ll be one of fewer than 20 centers in the United States to offer this type of therapy, says Dr. Oesterheld.

Dynamic approaches for blood and marrow transplantation. Replacing broken stem cells with healthy cells from a donor is one way to cure many types of cancer. We’re one of 12 institutions in the country studying a new technology that can help kids with cancer who have no other donors. “We have a number of kids who we’re helping save with this  technology, and we’re really privileged to be able to bring this top-level work here to Charlotte,” says Jeffrey Huo, MD, pediatric blood and marrow transplantation specialist.

Immunotherapies. Many new treatments for leukemia involve helping the body itself to fight off the cancerous cells. “We’re now able to trick the body’s own immune system into recognizing the leukemia cells as bad, so it can go and kill those cells,” says Joel Kaplan, MD, a pediatric hematologist-oncologist. “This type of research is one of the most cutting-edge things going on in the nation right now, and we’re contributing to those efforts here at LCH.”

Beyond new therapies, our doctors know that better treatment also includes providing the extra human touch – to be at our best when children are at their worst. “The science of cancer is always changing, which keeps us on our toes,” says Dr. Oesterheld. “But the idea of being able to get a child through probably the worst times of their lives – for us, that’s invaluable.”

Fighting a Disease

Jackson, 2016 Charlotte Half Marathon

Written by Tammy Lowry, Jackson’s Mom
At the age of 12, my son Jackson Lowry decided to join the Isabella Santos Foundation Dream Team.  The Dream Team trains together as a group to run a half marathon, supporting each other and raising funds for ISF and pediatric cancer.  November 2016 was his first half marathon, and he did a phenomenal job.  He politely reminds me every day that he beat me, and he is going to beat me again this year.  His motivation might be to beat his mother in a half marathon, but the biggest joy I embrace is how he is learning about fundraising and supporting our community when there are kids a little less fortunate.  But then something happens that reminds me – – he knows what that is like.  He knows how it is to fight a disease.  He has Type 1 Diabetes, and it haunts us when we least expect it.
Last Saturday was a critical part of our half marathon training.  We were meeting for a group run that is 10 miles of the actual race course.  Unfortunately, Jackson had a cross country meet that morning with his middle school – so we both did not attend the group run.   Instead, we got up on Sunday and hit the streets at 7:45am to accomplish this run together.  There is a part of the half marathon course that is a huge hill on Providence Road.  Jackson and I both agreed that once we run that, we are golden.
We start off with our run, and he is in high spirits.  He is directing me which route to go, which streets to run on.  He was so pumped.  We pull that hill on Providence Road and when we reached the top he started to slow down.  Now he fell behind me in pace.  We were only at 3 miles – – we had a long ways to go.  I kept looking back at him to see what was going on, and I looped back around.  His blood sugar dropped significantly and he was having a diabetic attack.  I pulled out a bag of energy beans because that is all I had on me at the time.  He ate the entire bag and felt better immediately.  But when you deal with blood sugar highs and lows – it affects your attitude, your mood, and your motivation.  He lost all motivation after his attack.
As he looked at me completely wiped out, he told me to go ahead and run.  I was hesitant at first.  I ran ahead of him and I would circle back around to see how he was doing.  Then I finally kept on running but talked to him on the phone as I completed my 10 miles.  He walked it behind me, but he kept going.
The entire time I thought – – what is he going to say to me when we meet back at my car?  Will he be defeated?  Will he be upset?  How do I handle this as his mom?  I certainly know that you have good runs and bad runs, but will he understand that?  He is only 13 years old.
We get back to the car and he looks at me and says, “I will get it next time.”  Yes you will Jackson, yes you will.  This weekend, we have an 8 mile run, and I know he will do it.  His heart is full of motivation and he won’t quit.
– Tammy Lowry, Jackson’s Mom