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Saving Kids with Science

Clinical Trial Helps Girl With Neuroblastoma

Madison and Susan Cohn, MD Susan Cohn, MD, spends time with Madison during chemotherapy treatment for neuroblastoma.

Within moments after Desiree Thomas learned that her young daughter's life was in danger from an advanced form of common pediatric cancer of nerve tissue called neuroblastoma, she began to contemplate whether to enroll her child in a clinical trial.

Cancer specialists at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children's Hospital told Thomas that her 3-year-old daughter, Madison, had less than a 40 percent chance of being cured of the disease. After treatment with six cycles of chemotherapy, surgery, myeloablative treatment with stem cell transplant and radiation therapy, Madison still had evidence of neuroblastoma in her bone marrow, indicating that standard therapy had not eradicated the cancer.

Thomas decided to enroll her daughter in a study testing a new treatment strategy with antibodies that are directed against neuroblastoma cancer cells combined with cytokines that stimulate the patient's immune system and a retinoid that induces neuroblastoma differentiation.

At Comer Children's, cancer patients have a unique opportunity to participate in clinical trials because of our active participation in medical and scientific research. Patients in trials must adhere to precise treatment protocols, and they receive some of the most innovative new treatments available.

Madison, neuroblastoma patient Madison, now in remission, shows off her new hairdo and her doll. At Comer Children's, teaching dolls are used to help children understand treatments.

A testament to her physicians' dedication and the groundbreaking therapy she received as a clinical trials participant, Madison is in remission and back in school more than a year after her diagnosis and initial treatment. "Clinical trials provide state-of-the art therapy for children with cancer," said Dr. Sue Cohn, one of Madison's physicians and director of clinical research in the Section of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology.

Nationwide, the high number of children in clinical trials contributes to the enormous gains in pediatric cancer care made in recent decades. Many of the leaders in the pediatric oncology who are responsible for designing the trials conducted in the pediatric cooperative clinical trials group are faculty members at the University of Chicago.

"Why not be at the place where your doctor is one of the pediatric oncology experts who help design your clinical trial," Dr. Cohn asks.

March 2009

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