Childhood cancers are devastating, causing great distress within families. Unfortunately, for young children the disease process is no different than that of adults. The cancer cells grow out of control, developing in abnormal shapes and sizes eventually weakening a child’s body strength and organs. Leukemia is an illness of the white cells; the most common being acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and the second most common being acute myelogenous leukemia (AML). Fortunately, well versed physicians and scientists like Dr. Blythe Thomson are showing optimism in how science continues to deliver good news about breakthroughs in childhood cancers.
Dr. Blythe Thomson a pediatric oncologist with Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center speaks about tremendous progress in childhood leukemia research. She oversees the clinical leukemia program in addition to being a local investigator for all leukemia trials. Dr. Thomson explains how current therapies are offering standard risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) a favorable prognosis with a 95 percent survival rate. So essentially, children getting chemotherapy are doing well and having a normal active life. Dr. Thomson also reminds listeners about the important tools for survival - staying motivated, being proactive, voicing concerns and constantly communicating with your child's doctor.
This is exactly what Janice Keller did when her son Ricky was diagnosed with leukemia. Ricky Keller was just 6 years old and half way through his kindergarten year when he was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He began treatment and spent the next two years struggling to stay on course. His chemotherapy came around in 2006 when he finally managed to maintain a high enough white cell count to stay on protocol and to resume his schooling as a third grader. Mrs. Keller emphasizes the importance of being a proactive parent and how determining what will benefit your child also dictates the outcome of the illness greatly. Since Ricky benefited from the support of his family, doctors and classmates, he was anxious to see how he could help others. As an active fundraiser for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Ricky to date has raised over 20,000 dollars. Ricky’s humorous description of fighting cancer compares it to a video game in which your blood cells are fighting the bad guys and winning. This show is a great example of how the spirit of a child can offer hope to the young and old living with cancer.
Listen to Dr. Thomson discuss current research studies, survival rates, fears of secondary cancer and the direction we are headed. She also talks about current treatments like Imatinib and Gleevec and studies in leukemia that have yet to be examined, all while yielding surprising results.
“I think all of the pediatric oncologists here are very encouraged by how far we've come and are challenged by where we need to go and then also to take care of the children that we've given chemotherapy to, not just now but well into the future.“ - Dr. Blythe Thomson
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Hello and welcome once again to one of our Seattle Cancer Care Alliance Patient Power programs. We do this every two weeks. Tonight is a live webcast, and we're going to be discussing leukemia in children, and fortunately state of the art treatments that over the years have made a difference where, quite frankly, when you think back just a few years ago if a kid was diagnosed with leukemia most of the time it was fatal, and then over the last years most of the kids are living and living well. So we invite your calls today as we talk about leukemia in children with an expert from Seattle's Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. We'll be meeting Dr. Blythe Thomson, who is both a researcher and a clinician, a hematologist, oncologist for children in just a minute.
And we invite your calls any time along the way, 877 711 5611. You can also send us an e mail at Patient Power at seattlecca.org.
First I want you to meet a young man, ten years old, a fourth grader from Federal Way, Washington, south of Seattle, Ricky Keller. And Ricky came home from school, he had a normal day at school, he's got homework waiting for him after this broadcast. He is an incredible young man because if you go back to May of 2004 he had a really bad visit to the pediatrician. He went one day, he wasn't feeling well, they couldn't find anything. Then he went back ten days later and before he knew it he was weak. He was feeling terrible. Before he knew it, he was in the emergency room. He went at 11 in the morning to the doctor. At eleven o'clock at night in the hospital his family was told that he had ALL, acute lymphocytic or lymphoblastic, sometimes called that, leukemia, a common leukemia when a child does have leukemia. Fortunately leukemia is not a common ailment for children, but when it happens, typically it is ALL.
Ricky, the good news is how are you doing today? How are you feeling right now, Ricky?