Cancer Landmark Achieved

SEATTLE — Seattle Children’s Hospital made a landmark announcement Wednesday — the first leukemia patient in the state to try a new cancer therapy is disease free.

On July 10, 2013 Seattle Children’s announced a significant breakthrough in the fight against children’s cancer. A young woman from Bellingham WA. who has been fighting Leukemia for many years is cancer free.

Lynsie Conradi was in her third reoccurrence of Leukemia in her young 23 years. The Leukemia was resistant to Chemo and Radiation leaving Lynsie with a 20% chance of survival. Because of the research done at Seattle Children’s with T-Cell therapy Lynsie is cancer free.

T-Cells are removed from the patient’s body and reprogrammed and placed back in the body. The T-Cells then seek out and destroy the cancer cells, think of Pac Man. After reintroduction of Lynsie’s T-Cells Doctors rechecked her bone marrow 7 days later and found no trace of cancer.

Lynsie is the first patient in Washington to participate in the Phase 1 trials at Seattle Children’s. Dr. Rebecca Gardner is the lead researcher for this trial. Dr. Gardner is a Hematology/Oncology specialist at the Ben Towne research center at Seattle Children’s, she also participated in the Fellowship program at Seattle Children’s.

Kiwanis Children’s Cancer Program, KCCP, is raising money to fund Fellowships at three Pacific Northwest Hospitals, KDCCP at Doernbecher in Portland Oregon, KCCP Seattle Children’s Hospital and KCCP BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver Canada. Our goal is to fund three fellows at each hospital. As of fiscal year 2012 we have raised over $600,000 between the 3 groups!!

The Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Fellowship program at Seattle Children’s was established in 1969. Fellows receive training and experience in both basic research and clinical research throughout the three years of training. Each fellow has an individualized research program. The available programs at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, University of Washington and Children’s represent a wide variety of research opportunities. Research projects are tailored to meet the needs of individual fellows depending on their interests, previous training and experience. Dr.’s at Doernbecher and at BC Children’s hospital are also part of this clinical trial and are well on their way to their own breakthroughs with this exciting new treatment.

This is what we are working for, a cure for children’s cancer. This is a first step and we should be proud that KCCP has a part, all be it very small, and we should be encouraged that the program is working and we are on our way to a cure.
With our continued efforts KCCP will continue to raise money to fund fellows at all three hospitals in the Pacific Northwest. These fellows will continue the research started by Dr. Rebecca Gardner and Dr. Michael Jensen and many others. Maybe we will see KCCP in the next breakthrough announcements at one of the three hospitals.

One Disease with Different Faces

A disease caused by bone marrow transplants has at least two distinctive molecular forms, each of which might need a different treatment approach, researchers at the Child & Family Research Institute (CFRI) have discovered. Led by post-doctoral fellow Dr. Jacob Rozmus, research like this shows the importance of funding fellowship positions at CFRI, which is located on the BC Children’s Hospital site.

image002Donor blood and bone marrow transplantation is a key treatment for blood-related cancers. However, in a quarter of children who receive donated bone marrow, the donor immune cells attack the recipient’s tissues, resulting in a debilitating disease called chronic graft-versus-host-disease (cGVHD). cGVHD is the number one cause of transplantation-related illness, and kills one-in-five children within 15 years of its onset.

“We’ve found evidence that there may be different pathological mechanisms responsible for chronic GVHD depending on when the disease presents after bone marrow transplantation,” says Dr. Jacob Rozmus, who is also an oncologist at BC Children’s Hospital.

Previous research at CFRI under Dr. Kirk Schultz, Dr. Rozmus’ supervisor, has revealed that there are two distinct periods of cGVHD onset — within three to eight months of transplantation, and after nine months. It’s also known that, after the use of immunosuppressant medication, a transplant patient’s immune system reconstitutes itself in gradual steps.

image004Dr. Rozmus’ study explored whether it was possible to see the cGVHD differences over time reflected in small proteins called cytokines that play a critical role in cell communication. The researchers examined the cytokine profiles of 33 early onset and 11 late onset cGVHD patients, all of whom were part of the Children’s Oncology Group phase III trial for cGVHD treatment.

“Despite our small number of patients, we found significantly different cytokine patterns between the early and late onset cGVHD groups,” says Dr. Rozmus. While he says the results require validation in a larger study, they reveal the potential power of cytokine profiles as an accurate molecular marker for treating children with cGVHD.

“Cytokines could potentially be used to diagnose cGVHD and help clinicians choose the best course of therapy,” says Dr. Schultz, director of Childhood Cancer and Blood Research at BC Children’s Hospital and CFRI, in whose lab the current work was done.

The Kiwanis Children’s Cancer Program (KCCP), which will support research like this through the oncology fellowship program at BC Children’s Hospital, will play an important role in the future of children’s health. By supporting the leading-edge research that brings scientists and clinicians together to solve the mysteries of childhood diseases, Kiwanis Clubs of British Columbia /Yukon, the Kiwanis family and the Kiwanis Foundation of Canada is helping to improve the lives of children living with cancer, and their families, throughout the region.

Please contact Darlene Smith at dar_smith@shaw.ca to get more details and tips on how your club can support BC Children’s Hospital and the fellowship program.