Saturday, September 11, 2010

President Recognizes Cancers Awareness Month

On August 31, President Obama proclaimed September as a National Cancer Awareness Month, but not for pediatric cancers – he proclaimed it for Prostate Cancer and for Ovarian Cancer.  I guess in the “better late than never” category, a full 10 days into the month on September 10, President Obama recognized September also as Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  Here is the full release:

Presidential Proclamation--Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

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Each year, thousands of children face the battle against cancer with inspiring hope and incredible bravery.  When a child is diagnosed with cancer, an entire family and community are affected.  The devotion of parents, grandparents, loved ones, and friends creates a treasured network of support for these courageous children.  During National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we honor the young lives taken too soon and the survivors who face chronic health challenges, we celebrate the progress made in treatment and recovery, and we rededicate ourselves to fighting this disease so all children may have the chance to live a full and healthy life.

While survival rates for many childhood cancers have risen sharply over the past few decades, cancer is still the leading cause of death by disease for young Americans between infancy and age 15.  Too many families have been touched by cancer and its consequences, and we must work together to control, and ultimately defeat, this destructive disease.  I invite all Americans to visit for more information and resources about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of childhood cancers.

Tragically, the causes of cancer in children are largely unknown.  Until these illnesses can be cured, my Administration will continue to support investments in research and treatment.  The National Cancer Institute, the Federal Government's principal agency for cancer research, is supporting national and international studies examining the risk factors and possible causes of childhood cancers.

The health reforms included in the landmark Affordable Care Act advance critical protections for individuals facing cancer.  Provisions in the law prohibit insurance companies from limiting or denying coverage to individuals participating in clinical trials, the cornerstone of cancer research.  After recovering from cancer, children can no longer be denied insurance coverage due to a pre-existing condition.  It also requires all new plans to provide preventive services without charging copayments, deductibles, or coinsurance, increasing access to regular checkups that can help detect and treat childhood cancers earlier.  The Affordable Care Act eliminates annual and lifetime caps on insurance coverage and prohibits companies from dropping coverage if someone gets sick, giving patients and families the peace of mind that their insurance will cover the procedures their doctors recommend.

This month, we pay tribute to the health-care professionals, researchers, private philanthropies, social support organizations, and parent advocacy groups who work together to provide hope and help to families and find cures for childhood cancers.  Together, we will carry on their work toward a future in which cancer no longer threatens the lives of our Nation's children.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 2010 as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.  I also encourage all Americans to join me in recognizing and reaffirming our commitment to fighting childhood cancer.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
tenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.

                        BARACK OBAMA

Friday, September 10, 2010

Stand Up To Cancer


The other day I mentioned that researchers need to start thinking “outside the box” when it comes to treating cancers.  Stand Up to Cancer is a relatively new charitable organization that funds these new types of treatment.  Not only that, but SU2C encourages collaboration among different researchers as opposed to the traditional competitive nature between them.

This link shows all the new and innovative research that they are currently funding.  Some of them sound truly amazing!

SU2C will be holding a television special tonight, September 10th at 8:00 pm ET on all the major networks.

It’s long overdue that we all stand up to cancer!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Farewell Summer

Traditionally, the Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of Summer.  To say farewell to summer, we decided to rent a bounce house and ended up picking the Disney Princess 5-in-1 Combo bounce house.  I must say that it was one of the best investments we’ve made as the adults had just as much enjoyment from it than the kids!  Here are a few picture and a video of our fun weekend.

Roneil gets some help from the kids to position the castle in the yard.


The fully inflated castle was huge!


Isabella poses before heading down the slide.


Air Annalise gets some hang time on the basketball hoop.


Grandpa and Isabella get some rest from bouncing.


Grandpa, Isabella and Annalise get ready to slide.


Roneil and Julianne get their share of jumping in the castle.


Helmet Zapping Brain Tumors

With the poor prognosis for most brain tumors, it is apparent that researchers will have to start thinking “outside the box” to start getting better results.  A company from Israel has recently developed a device that uses electricity to kill tumor cells.  The patient wears a helmet made of electrodes that bathes the cancer in a faint electric field and prevents them from multiplying while sparing healthy cells.  Some of the downsides include having to shave your head frequently to ensure skin contact, having to wear the device for 20 hours per day (and carry around the 6 lbs. battery pack), and oh yeah – it costs $10,000-$15,000 per month to use.  An initial study shows that patients lived 7.8 months as opposed to 6.1 months, which doesn’t sound that great, but who knows – they can tweak the treatments or it may lead to new treatments.

The device is not yet approved for use in the US, but they do have approval in Europe.

Check out the whole article here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Treating Brain Tumors

(Portions of this note are excerpts from the National Cancer Institute page on Pediatric Brain Cancer.)
There are three standard treatment methods for brain tumors:  surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.  A patients oncologist will work with them to determine if they will use one or a combination of the different therapies.  Each one has their own advantages and disadvantages that need to be examined before a treatment plan can be developed.


Surgery is when a neurosurgeon goes in and physically removes the tumor from the head.  Surgery is the fastest way to remove a massive bulk of the tissue and is usually the first treatment used.  In some cases of benign tumors, there is no further need for additional treatment.  Even in cases of malignant (or cancerous) tumors, a complete resection vastly increases the chances of long term survival.  The obvious disadvantage of surgery is the possibility of damaging good tissue which could result in loss of functions or even death.  Also, there are certain areas of the brain that are inoperable due to the risk of damaging critical functions such as breathing.
Here is a link to a video of a brain tumor removal.


Radiation therapy uses X-rays or some other radiation to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing.  Unfortunately, radiation does not distinguish between good cells and tumor cells so there are some side-effects.  Short term, the patient may experience nausea, redness around the treatment site, and loss of hair.  Long term, children may have growth and other developmental problems.  Because of this, researchers are looking for ways to minimize the effects of radiation. 
One of these relatively new methods is the use of proton radiation.  Proton radiation uses a highly focused beam of energy to eliminate the “scatter” of traditional radiation.  This scatter is what causes many of the long term effects.
Check out this CBS news article which describes proton radiation and look for Dr. Peter Philips who we’ve consulted with at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.


Chemotherapy uses one or more drugs to kill cancer cells or prevent their growth.  The drugs can be administered either orally or intravenously.  (I just had a flashback to trying to teach Isabella how to swallow pills when she was going through her chemotherapy.)   There are many different types of chemotherapy drugs and each work differently and against different tumor types.  Chemotherapy is usually administered in cycles.  One of the biggest hurdles of chemotherapy for treating brain cancer is the challenge of the drugs to pass the the blood-brain-barrier (BBB), which is the body’s natural defense to protect the brain.
Although the long term effects of chemotherapy are relatively few, the short term effects range from mild to fairly serious.  For example, chemotherapy can cause someone’s hair to fall out, nausea, and suppression of the immunity system which would make the patient susceptible to infections.
Isabella was treated with all three methods for her cancer.  First, the neurosurgeon removed the 10cm tumor from her head which removed 95% of the tumor.  Then, she got chemotherapy for several months in the HeadStart clinical trial.  Finally, she received the proton radiation at Mass General Hospital, which is only one of 7 proton radiation centers in the country.
In upcoming articles, I will be describing alternative and new treatment options for brain cancer.