Pediatric stem cell transplants: What to know

When chemotherapy alone isn’t successful in treating blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma in pediatric patients, a stem cell transplant may be an option. They can also help treat some non-cancerous bone marrow diseases, like sickle cell disease, thalassemia, severe aplastic anemia and Kostmann syndrome. To learn about pediatric stem cell transplants and what parents should know, we spoke with Priti Tewari, M.D. What is a stem cell transplant? Stem cells are produced in our bone marrow; they mature to become our red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and the cells of our immune system. Stem cell transplants replace damaged or defective stem cells with healthy cells. They can also help replace a weakened immune system. There are two types: Autologous stem cell transplants use a patient’s own stem cells to help fight cancers like high-risk Hodgkin lymphoma, Ewing’s sarcoma, medulloblastoma and neuroblastoma. These cancers may require high doses of chemotherapy. Autologous transplants use patients’ own healthy stem cells to help with recovery. Allogeneic transplants replace patients’ stem cells with healthy cells from a donor. Are stem cells transplants safe for kids? Stem cell transplants come with risks, but they can be an option for patients as young as only a couple months old. With some non-cancerous diseases like severe combined immunodeficiency, the transplant should take place as soon as possible. Pediatric patients with this condition often have weaker immune systems and are at greater risk for infection. With some inherited disorders, we may watch your child for a few years and allow the organs to mature a little bit before moving ahead with a stem cell transplant....

Why I chose MD Anderson for my breast cancer treatment

When I was 10, one of my relatives came all the way from another state to get treated for breast cancer at MD Anderson. Another one got breast cancer treatment from a doctor near her home who works closely with MD Anderson faculty. So, I knew exactly where to turn for help when I found out I had breast cancer last year. MD Anderson is just where you go when you have cancer. It’s the top cancer hospital in the country. And it’s known worldwide for its cutting-edge treatments and clinical trials. My delayed breast cancer diagnosis I received my breast cancer diagnosis last summer. I’d gotten my very first mammogram in October 2018, when I was almost 40. The technician told me I had both dense breast tissue and some small calcifications in my left breast. Dense breast tissue can make it harder for radiologists to identify suspicious areas, so he suggested I get a 3D mammogram as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that plan had to take a backseat, because not long after I got the mammogram, I was also diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat. That condition can be fatal, so I needed to address it immediately. I worked with a cardiologist for several months to get my heart problems under control, then turned my attention back to my breasts. I had both the 3D mammogram and a breast ultrasound on June 21, 2019. On July 1, my doctor ordered a biopsy. On July 8, I learned I had stage I invasive ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer. My breast cancer treatment My first...

Why I chose MD Anderson for my breast cancer treatment

When I was 10, one of my relatives came all the way from another state to get treated for breast cancer at MD Anderson. Another one got breast cancer treatment from a doctor near her home who works closely with MD Anderson faculty. So, I knew exactly where to turn for help when I found out I had breast cancer last year. MD Anderson is just where you go when you have cancer. It’s the top cancer hospital in the country. And it’s known worldwide for its cutting-edge treatments and clinical trials. My delayed breast cancer diagnosis I received my breast cancer diagnosis last summer. I’d gotten my very first mammogram in October 2018, when I was almost 40. The technician told me I had both dense breast tissue and some small calcifications in my left breast. Dense breast tissue can make it harder for radiologists to identify suspicious areas, so he suggested I get a 3D mammogram as soon as possible. Unfortunately, that plan had to take a backseat, because not long after I got the mammogram, I was also diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat. That condition can be fatal, so I needed to address it immediately. I worked with a cardiologist for several months to get my heart problems under control, then turned my attention back to my breasts. I had both the 3D mammogram and a breast ultrasound on June 21, 2019. On July 1, my doctor ordered a biopsy. On July 8, I learned I had stage I invasive ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer. My breast cancer treatment My first...

Kids and masks during the COVID-19 pandemic: 7 questions, answered

Wearing a mask when out in public is one of the easiest ways to help curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, especially by those who may be infected and not yet realize it. But it’s not just adults who need to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kids do, too. So, how young is too young to wear a mask? Why do some children resist it so fiercely? And how can parents get their kids more comfortable with wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic? We spoke with Nicole Rosburg, manager of our Child, Adolescent and Young Adult Life Program, who works with our pediatric cancer patients to get them to wear masks. Here’s what she had to say. Why is it important for children to wear masks during the coronavirus pandemic? What should parents tell their kids about wearing a mask? It’s important to help kids understand that wearing a mask helps protect the people around us. We know that wearing a mask provides more protection for others than it does for ourselves. But we also know that children can be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19. So, if they’re masked, they’re less likely to transmit the virus to others. Children have a lot fewer inhibitions than adults. So, if they see something interesting, they’re much more likely to run at it. Kids aren’t worrying about the risks. They just think, “Oh, it’s so exciting to see Aunt Cathy! I’m going over there right now.” They don’t have that internal locus of control to put on the brakes, before somebody else says, “Stop!” Wearing a mask protects others...

Siblings help each other through sarcoma treatment during COVID-19 pandemic

When Ewing’s sarcoma survivor Erica Nowell learned that her older brother, Chris Plummer, had cancer earlier this year, she was shocked. But when she found out he’d been diagnosed with myxoid liposarcoma — a subtype of sarcoma — she was stunned. “As a nurse practitioner at MD Anderson West Houston, I went through the motions of being empathetic and guiding him through next steps,” says Erica. “But as a sister, it took me several days to grasp the fact that my only sibling was about to embark on the same journey I was on. I had to cry about it a little bit before I could get down to business.” Chris was pretty shaken up by his sarcoma diagnosis, too. “To say it came as a shock would be a massive understatement,” he says. “It’s been absolutely surreal.” No question about where to be treated The first thing Erica did was help Chris get an appointment with the specialists at MD Anderson’s Sarcoma Center. “In my mind, there was never a question about where my brother would be treated,” she says. “MD Anderson saved my life as a teenager, and it’s helping me face a relapse now. So, it was reassuring to know he’d be in the same good hands.” Chris ended up being assigned to the same doctors who are treating his sister: sarcoma specialist Robert Benjamin, M.D. (now mostly retired), radiation oncologist Ashleigh Guadagnolo M.D., and sarcoma surgeon Christina Roland, M.D. “Knowing my care team is the same one that’s been treating her dramatically eased my fears,” Chris says. Unusual dual sarcoma diagnoses call for genetic testing...