Category Archives: Research

Winter Shoe & Clothing Drive: Why Cancer Kids Need to Dress Warmly

We are desperate for NEW winter footwear and clothing for our Little Fighters and unfortunately the response has been absolutely minimal so far.

We have close to 15 000 followers and a reach of over 50 000 people weekly!! If just 10% would purchase JUST ONE item each we would more than make our target 😥

Every year the Little Fighters Cancer Trust aims to provide around 2 000 Children with Cancer with warm clothing, scarves,gloves, mittens, socks and shoes before the winter cold sets in, and this is for a VERY good reason.

Most of our Childhood Cancer Families cannot afford to purchase new clothing and due to weight loss or gain as a result of the treatment it is often necessary. It is absolutely vital that a Child with cancer keep warm at all times because the cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy lower white blood cell count.

White blood cells are the body’s weapons against infection; having a low white blood cell count weakens the cancer patient’s immune system. If treatment has lowered your child’s white blood cell count, that may explain why they feel cold. Platelets are one of the three kinds of blood cells that circulate oxygen throughout the body. If one does not have enough of them, one’s body cannot get enough oxygen, which means one can develop anemia-which causes one to feel cold, among other things.

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Childhood Cancer Survivors @ Higher Risk of Mental Illness

The results of a new study suggest that being labelled “a child survivor” leads to problems in adulthood

While many Children with Cancer now survive, new research has shown that they are at greater risk of poor mental health outcomes, such as anxiety and substance abuse, according to a Canadian oncologist who was surprised at the extent of severe issues.

About 80% of children with cancer will achieve a long-term cure. Yet childhood cancer survivors may be vulnerable to long-term physical effects that can be severe. Less is known about impacts on mental health.

In a recent issue of the journal Cancer, researchers analysed data from about 4,000 childhood cancer survivors in Ontario as well as 20,000 others in the general population to compare health care use. The findings have implications for mental health supports and parenting those who have survived cancer.

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More Hope for Children with Leukaemia

The average survival rate for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), the most common type of children’s cancer, has gone from under 20% to 85%  – unfortunately this is not the case in South Africa though 😥

Cutting-edge treatments are constantly being developed for even the toughest cases, but once again, these treatments are not available in South Africa!

Children’s cancers are unique, but the lessons learned from the extraordinary success of consecutive clinical trials have paved the way for advances in cancer treatment in general. New scientific breakthroughs are happening extremely quickly in medicine these days, far quicker in actual fact than the ability to develop and fund new treatments. Unfortunately this also means wrestling with uncomfortable questions of fairness in deciding priorities — who will be treated first?

One of the most important developments in Childhood Cancer is the ability to tailor treatment — to figure out who needs powerful doses of chemotherapy and who could do with less. Lighter treatment causes less long-term damage to the rest of the developing body — very important for children who have their whole lives in front of them. In some subgroups of patients with ALL, we’re getting better-than-90% survival rates using minimal therapy. This will allow children to recover more fully, without long-term side-effects and with a normal life expectancy.

Right now, there are two groups of kids with ALL at high risk of dying: those with treatment-resistant disease, and those whose cancer recurs either more than once or after receiving a stem-cell transplant.



Even for these toughest cases though, there is now a promising new treatment: a type of immunotherapy calledCAR-T that harnesses the body’s own immune system to destroy cancer cells. Doctors remove immune cells, called T cells, from the child’s blood and reprogram them to find and destroy the leukaemia cells by changing the DNA that controls the immune response. Those cells are put back into the child’s bloodstream, where they multiply then track down and kill the cancer cells. (The first Child with Cancer to receive this experimental treatment, a girl who had been destined to die, is alive and well 12 years later.)

As doctors and scientists home in on the toughest cases, treatments will become more “customised” and more expensive. It currently costs in excess of $2 million to save the life of a child sent to the U.S. for the new CAR-T therapy. If this treatment was available in other countries, it would cost far less, and would be far less disruptive to both the Child with Cancer as well as the rest of the family who generally have to move to the US for at least the duration of the treatment.

It is hoped that the role of CAR-T treatment can be expanded to other types of cancer next — for example, brain tumours, which are the second-most-common group of childhood cancers.

The problem is that many medical aids will not cover such exorbitant costs. Also, there’s never going to be enough money to fully fund every emerging treatment and to try “everything” in every case, so pursuing one type of costly treatment means less money for another.

Many medical ethicists, governments, health-care professionals and ultimately everyone in society is grappling with the question of “If it costs $2 million for that treatment for one child but there are far fewer children with leukaemia than there are adults with breast and prostate cancer, and that amount would treat far more adults, What is a fair expense?

Ultimately, every advance we make in treating any type of cancer could help us to develop treatments for others, and hopefully we will see survival rates continue to rise, allowing the bedside role more and more to encompass hope as well as compassion.




Cancer Costing BRICS Economies Billions Anually

Premature – and potentially avoidable – death from cancer is costing tens of billions of dollars in lost productivity in a group of key developing economies.

Over two-thirds of the world’s cancer deaths occur in economically developing countries, but the societal costs of the disease have rarely been assessed in these settings.

A paper published on 25th January, 2018 in the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology reveals that the total cost of lost productivity due to premature cancer mortality for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – known as BRICS – was USD$46.3 billion in 2012. (the most recent year for which cancer data was available for all these countries).

The BRICS countries are a diverse group of nations but were originally grouped together because they were rising emerging economies. Currently the five countries combined comprise over 40% of the world’s population and 25% of global gross domestic product.

South Africa has the highest cost per cancer death (USD$101,000) compared with the other BRICS countries. Its cost is five times that of India, which had the lowest cost per death. Given the size of China’s population it has the largest overall loss (USD$28 billion).

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Pet Dogs May Speed Human Brain Cancer Trials

Dogs and humans share a particularly deadly form of brain cancer: glioblastoma, the most common – and a very aggressive – type of malignant brain tumour among adults.

A new five-year canine cancer research project, awarded to the University of Minnesota, may improve survival rates in dogs and give researchers more insight into glioblastoma to apply to human trials.

The $2.7 million grant funded as part of the 21st Century Cures Act by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, is led by Dr. Liz Pluhar, professor of veterinary surgery at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

Glioblastomas are a highly invasive tumour that carries a grim prognosis in humans, with a median survival of 14 months despite surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Pet dogs diagnosed with these tumours have few treatment options and are often euthanised shortly after diagnosis. Pluhar’s project hopes to improve those outcomes by combining complementary therapies.

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Forecast of Cancer Research and Treatment Advances in 2018

2017 saw many “firsts” in the oncology community, in the form of several revolutionary advances in the research and treatment of cancer, including  the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of an immunotherapeutic to treat patients based on biomarkers rather than the site of tumour origin; the approval of the first CAR T-cell immunotherapy; and the approval of a comprehensive next-gen companion diagnostic test to identify the right patients for the right molecularly targeted therapeutic.

In 2017, the FDA also approved the FoundationOne CDx test, which can detect genetic mutations in 324 genes and two genomic signatures in any solid tumour type, and the first “biosimilar” cancer drugs, which could potentially help drive down the costs of some cancer treatments.

While immunotherapies lead to long-lasting responses for some patients, a sizable portion of patients do not respond to these agents; some patients who respond ultimately develop resistance; and we still do not have precise biomarkers to predict who will respond and who will not. The same can be said about targeted therapies, where challenges with treatment resistance continue to be a major roadblock. Above all, patients from underrepresented and underserved communities quite often do not benefit from cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment advances.

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How do Blood Cancers Differ in Adults & Adolescents?

Survival rates associated with blood cancers such as Leukaemia, Lymphoma, and Multiple Myeloma have gone up for patients of all ages in recent years. This increase has however been relatively smaller in adolescents and young adults than in children and older adults.

According to researchers, there are likely to be multiple reasons for this. Part of the answer lies in the basic biology of tumours – differences in the genetic makeup of cancers in young adults that make such cancers less responsive to standard therapies.

In Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia (ALL)… also known as Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, researchers have recently identified a genetic sub-type, known as Philadelphia chromosome-like (Ph-like) ALL, that becomes more prevalent with age and possibly peaks in young adulthood.

Philadelphia chromosome-like (Ph-like) ALL has a poorer prognosis in adolescents and young adults, according to Daniel DeAngelo, MD, PhD, director of Clinical and Translational Research for the Adult Leukaemia Program at Dana-Farber. Ph-like ALL has a pattern of gene activity similar to a sub-type called Philadelphia chromosome-positive (Ph+) ALL.

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Does Chemotherapy Cause Cancer Regrowth?

Some cancers are difficult to beat, even with modern drugs. It is extremely difficult to find the right drugs to treat a cancer; cancer cells are particularly good at evading everything that modern medicine throws at them.

Many cancers, including Childhood Cancers are still treated with Radiation Therapy and/or Chemotherapy. but new research shows that one type of chemotherapy actually provides a safe haven for tumour cells, boosting cancer recurrence and growth in the long-run.

A good chemotherapy is meant to stop or slow the growth of a tumour; this is achieved by activating a pathway called programmed cell suicide, or apoptosis. Some cancer types however are resistant to apoptosis so other avenues must be pursued to destroy those tumours.

One alternative is to actually damage the DNA genetic code within the cancer cells to the point where it is beyond repair; the cells then respond by activating a process called cellular senescence.

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New Drug Approved for CINV Treatment

We recently did a blogpost on Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), a  common — and often costly — problem among patients with cancer.

Chemotherapy drugs are very powerful and they cause damage to many growing cells, including some healthy cells.

This damage causes the side effects of chemotherapy, which can include Nausea and Vomiting; Diarrhoea; Constipation, and many more.

Cinvanti (aprepitant) injectable emulsion – was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea/vomiting (CINV).

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Patients with Cachexia need Nutritional Support

Anorexia is a common symptom in patients with cancer, which can lead to poor tolerance of treatment and can contribute to cachexia in extreme cases. … Currently, there are no instruments that measure common concerns specifically associated with anorexia and cachexia in children with cancer.

By some estimates, nearly one-third of cancer deaths can be attributed to a wasting syndrome called cachexia that can be devastating for patients and their families.

Characterised by a dramatic loss of skeletal muscle mass and often accompanied by substantial weight loss, cachexia (pronounced kuh-KEK-see-uh) is a form of metabolic mutiny in which the body overzealously breaks down skeletal muscle and adipose tissue, which stores fat. Patients suffering from cachexia are often so frail and weak that walking can be a Herculean task.

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