From Clinical Trial to Graduation Day

From Clinical Trial to Graduation Day

Among the pediatric cancer research projects that CURE funded in 2011 was a clinical trial for leukemia at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Hospital of Atlanta. The doctor’s progress report at that time read as follows:

“Dr. KY Chiang at Aflac is now in year three of his clinical trial using AMD3100 as a chemosensitizing agent in blood and marrow transplants in chemotherapy-resistant acute leukemia patients. The one patient enrolled in the study (which hoped to enroll more, but no other patients met the criteria) received the treatment and is now more than 600 days post treatment, with no signs of leukemia or GvHD.”

Note that only one patient met the criteria to be enrolled in the study. That fact disappointed the doctor as he had hoped to gather more data from a larger pool of patients. But it did not disappoint that patient or her family. We know that because we asked her mom.

In August of 2011, Elena completed her treatment for ALL. Unfortunately, her first battle was not a complete victory. Elena relapsed in February of 2012. Instead of enjoying the carefree days of summer, Elena underwent nine intense days of chemo and radiation to prepare her body for a life-saving bone marrow transplant.

“Elena’s body didn’t respond to the chemo,” said her mother, Christy. “We were scared and frustrated and running out of options when we learned that Elena met the criteria to be part of a clinical trial at CHOA Egleston. The experimental treatment was very hard on her and she was in the hospital for several months, but the treatment cured Elena.”

She had her bone marrow transplant on July 25, 2012, nearly five years ago. And on May 25, 2017, she walked across the stage as a high school graduate!

“These years have been challenging in so many ways – spending over two months in the hospital, three weeks in the Ronald McDonald House, and living in isolation until May of the following year!” she said. “But Elena just turned eighteen. She graduated with honors and a 3.93 GPA. She has had perfect attendance her senior year and logged over 100 community service hours – all while struggling with late term effects of treatment. We are so very proud of her and all she has accomplished! And these added years of Elena’s life are because of CURE’s funding of the trial Elena was on!”

CURE directs $3.2 million or more annually to targeted research which is likely to have a positive impact on children within five years. Due to privacy restrictions, we don’t often get to see the fruits of those investments. But today, pictures of a girl with beautiful red hair and stunning smile reaching out to grasp her diploma show us the reward of our work… and your work as you partner with us to find a cure.

 

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