Athlete Getting Back on the Field After Low-Grade Glioma

This post was originally published on Thriving, Boston Children’s Hospital’s pediatric health blog. It started with muscle aches in her shoulders, almost like spasms, while she slept. The pain was awful, and nothing seemed to bring relief. But because Erin Holmberg is a varsity three-sport athlete—soccer, basketball and track—everyone assumed it was muscular pain caused … Continued

What is an Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) Tumor Marker Test?

Tumor markers are substances in the human body that are produced by tumors and secreted into the blood, urine, or other bodily fluids. Certain benign conditions can also raise these markers, but significant elevations or a progressive rise can indicate a malignant process.  An AFP, or alpha-fetoprotein, tumor marker test—one of many different types of … Continued

50-Year-Old Mystery Solved—With Clues to Making More Red Blood Cells

This post was originally published on Vector, Boston Children’s Hospital’s science and clinical innovation blog. Back in the 1950s, doctors began using steroids to treat Diamond-Blackfan anemia, or DBA, a severe condition in which patients cannot make enough red blood cells. There was no real rationale for using steroids, but there was no other good option, … Continued

Overriding Resistance to Epigenetic Inhibitors in Neuroblastoma: Targeting PI3K

This post originally appeared on Vector, Boston Children’s Hospital’s science and clinical innovation blog. Children’s cancers pose unique challenges. They’re not caused by the same kinds of genetic mutations that cause adult cancers, and only a minority of their mutations can be targeted with drugs. In a recent study, Kimberly Stegmaier, MD, at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer … Continued

Now in Remission, Pediatric Cancer Patient is Inspiration for Her Family

Kids often rely on their parents for inspiration, but for Kevin and Becky McAvoy, it’s their five-year-old daughter Avery who provides the spark. Avery was less than a year old when she was diagnosed with metastatic neuroblastoma, the most common type of cancer in infants. Her cancer contained an anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) mutation. The … Continued

Parents of Two-Year-Old Hepatoblastoma Survivor Enjoying Every Milestone

Steph and Jake Holbrook know the date of every important moment in their son’s life: William’s first steps, his first words, and even his first Boston Red Sox game. Another date they’ll forever remember: Jan. 17, 2018, when they were told that William—then 10 months old—had a rare type of liver cancer. “I couldn’t believe … Continued

Signs and Symptoms of Pediatric Kidney Tumors

The majority of people are born with two kidneys, which are located on each side of the spine below the ribcage. They filter blood and make urine, and also produce hormones that regulate blood pressure, generate red blood cells, and help maintain strong and healthy bones. Pediatric kidney (renal) tumors occur when malignant (cancer) cells … Continued

After 80 Years, Genetic Causes of Diamond-Blackfan Anemia Come Into View

This post was originally published on Vector, Boston Children Hospital’s science and clinical innovation blog. In 1938, Louis K. Diamond, MD, and Kenneth Blackfan, MD, at Boston Children’s Hospital described a severe congenital anemia that they termed “hypoplastic” (literally, “underdeveloped”) because of the bone marrow’s inability to produce mature, functioning red blood cells. Eighty years … Continued

Pediatric Leukemia Survivor Having a Ball After CAR T-Cell Therapy

After undergoing a promising new treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), Cole Malone is back to doing what he loves: playing on a flag football team with his twin brother, Michael. Cole and Michael Malone, who are 14, already know plenty about teamwork. Michael served as a perfect-match donor when Cole underwent a stem cell … Continued

CRISPR-Cas9 Screen Opens New Targets for Ewing Sarcoma, Other Childhood Cancers

This post originally appeared on Vector, Boston Children’s Hospital’s blog. While the genetic mutations driving adult cancers can sometimes be targeted with drugs, most pediatric cancers lack good targets. That’s because their driving genetic alterations often create fusion proteins that aren’t easy for drugs to attack. “This is one reason why it is notoriously hard … Continued

ctDNA: Bringing ‘liquid biopsies’ to pediatric solid tumors

This post originally appeared on Vector, Boston Children’s Hospital’s blog. Our blood carries tiny amounts of DNA from broken-up cells. If we have cancer, some of that DNA comes from tumor cells. Studies performed with adult cancers have shown that this circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) may offer crucial clues about tumor genetic mutations and how … Continued

New Research Effort Aims to Improve Treatment for Sickle Cell Disease

Emmanuel “Manny” Johnson, Jr., shares many loves with his little brother, Aiden—from basketball to video games. One thing he wishes they did not share is sickle cell disease (SCD), so Manny is playing a role in a new effort to improve treatment for patients like seven-year-old Aiden, himself, and others living with the inherited blood … Continued

What is Wilms Tumor and How Is It Treated?

Wilms tumor is the most common type of pediatric kidney cancer. It is most common in children age five and younger, but it can also occur from infancy to age 15. As with any cancer, the tumor can spread beyond its initial location. What are the causes and symptoms of Wilms tumor? Occasionally, a child … Continued

Can Neuroblastoma Be Inherited?

Neuroblastoma is a cancer that develops in nerve cells. It frequently begins in the adrenal glands; it may also originate in nerve tissue along the spine and show up as masses in the neck, chest, abdomen, or spine. It is the most common cancer in babies and the third most common cancer in children. Ninety … Continued

What is Interventional Radiology for Pediatric Cancer Patients?

Interventional radiology offers a set of minimally invasive procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and palliative care for certain diseases, such as cancer. This subspecialty in interventional radiology is also known as interventional oncology. These procedures can be alternative options to open biopsies and surgeries, and are typically shorter, relatively less risky and associated with faster recovery. Interventional … Continued

What Parents Should Know About Genetic Cancer Risk

If your child could be at risk for cancer, the sooner you discover that risk, the more you can do to prevent cancer or catch it in an early stage. Not every child needs to be tested, so it’s important to learn what genetic testing is and whether it’s the right decision for you and … Continued

Sajni Walks Among the Stars: A Parent’s Perspective

This post originally appeared on Thriving, Boston Children Hospital’s pediatric health blog. Our daughter Sajni Chakrabarti was only 7 and a half years old when she was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of brain cancer—diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG)—and given only nine months to live. Sajni loved life and learning. She spoke French fluently, … Continued

Diagnosed as a Baby, Neuroblastoma Patient is Cancer-Free Toddler

The first year of a baby’s life is filled with milestones, but between sitting and standing up, holding his bottle, and playing peek-a-boo, there was one thing Landon Cato developed that his parents never anticipated: cancer. Landon was just shy of eight months old in July 2016 when his parents took him to the pediatrician, … Continued

5 Recent Advancements in Pediatric Cancer Treatment

From new immunotherapy treatments to improved understanding of the genetic mechanisms of pediatric tumors, the past year has brought many important advances against childhood cancers. We sat down with Scott Armstrong, MD, PhD, chair of Pediatric Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, to discuss some of these developments. CAR T-Cell Therapy for Relapsed ALL A CAR … Continued