Change the World

Steve McKinionUncategorized2 Comments

A lot of people set out to change the world. And there are many, many ways to make the world a better place for people. One community in need of great advancement is the childhood cancer community.

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Pediatric cancer treatment has come a long way in the last fifty years, mainly through clinical trials to determine proper dosing of chemotherapy agents. But in the last few years researchers, primarily due to funding from groups like St. Baldricks and Curesearch, have begun to find alternative “targeted therapies” to kill cancer cells without killing healthy cells. The targeted-therapy approach to cancer treatment is revolutionary.

But those who determine treatments for kids with cancer are hard-pressed to move away from chemotherapy, which saves many, many lives, and embrace targeted therapy. Why? Traditional treatments “work.” Kids’ lives are saved through chemo.

True, many of these kids suffer terrible long-term side affects, and many die from infections due to the treatment, but a lot of kids live.

Plus, what parent is going to say, “Sure, stop what you know has worked for other kids and try something new on my child.” Not. Going. To. Happen.

But here is where Harrison comes in.

The picture above is from a presentation at a national childhood cancer conference. Thousands of the world’s best pediatric oncologists gathering to share the results of research. And in the middle of it all is Harrison. But, of course, where else would I expect him to be than in the middle of whatever is happening!

Why is this picture so important? Because it represents the future of childhood cancer treatment. You see Harrison with his oncologist, Dr. Brent Weston. And the point of the slide (and presentation) is this: Harrison’s leukemia was resistant to traditional chemo, like thousands of other kids. But, rather than try stronger, more toxic, chemo agents, his oncologist gave him a drug that targets the cause of his cancer, a protein called a tyrosine kinase. And the result? REMISSION.

Now, Harrison’s treatment is not over, he still has two years to go. And, with pediatric leukemia short term success doesn’t always result is long term success, but the results are astounding. Most kids whose leukemia resists the initial, induction therapy do not survive. No child with a leukemia similar to Harrison’s has.

And now Harrison’s story is being told because he represents the future. Thanks to an oncologist who refused to just accept defeat, Harrison is still fighting. And tonight he’ll step onto the baseball field with a passion like I have rarely seen. One way or another, he’ll change the world.

2 Comments on “Change the World”

  1. Am I remembering correctly that Harrison’s doctors tried Gleevec because he tested positive for the Philadelphia chromosome? If so, you might be interested in the new book The Philadelphia Chromosome by Jessica Wapner. I’ve read that it is written in the style of The Emperor of All Maladies.

    1. Elizabeth,

      No, Harrison’s is not Philadelphia positive. His is a form usually termed Ph-like or BCR-ABL like ALL. They both are the result of a tyrosine kinase, which is why Gleevec has been working with Harrison’s leukemia. The chromosome defect is not 7/22 like Ph+ but instead a deletion on 5q.

      The Emperor of All Maladies has become one of my favorite books.

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