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Childhood Cancer: Part V (v): Bone Marrow & Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplants

In Part 1 of this series we explained that this series of articles is not meant to be medical advice, but a guide that may help you as a parent of a newly diagnosed child with cancer cope just a bit better. Information is knowledge, and never more so than when you are dealing with childhood cancer!

These articles are meant to help you be the key part of your child’s treatment that you will need to be. Take what works for you according to your situation and your child’s temperament, personality, fears, strengths, and how they deal with adversity, and leave what does not pertain to your situation.

Part 5 deals with Different Types of Treatment and Possible Side-Effects of that treatment. As this is quite a long section, it has been split it into 5(i) Surgery 5(ii) Chemotherapy 5(iii) Radiation Therapy 5(iv) Immunotherapy and 5(v) Bone Marrow & Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Transplants.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine treatment (CAM) is very involved and will contain a lot of information, so that will be dealt with separately in Part 6 of this series of articles.

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Missing Microbes ‘Cause’ Childhood Cancer

Our modern germ-free life is the cause of the most common type of cancer in children, according to one of Britain’s most eminent scientists.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) affects one in 2,000 children.

Prof Mel Greaves, from the Institute of Cancer Research, has amassed 30 years of evidence to show the immune system can become cancerous if it does not “see” enough bugs early in life.

It means it may be possible to prevent the disease.

Combined Events

The type of blood cancer is more common in advanced, affluent societies, suggesting something about our modern lives might be causing the disease.

There have been wild claims linking power cables, electromagnetic waves and chemicals to the cancer.

That has been dismissed in this work published in Nature Reviews Cancer.

Instead, Prof Greaves – who has collaborated with researchers around the world – says there are three stages to the disease.

The first is a seemingly unstoppable genetic mutation that happens inside the womb. Then a lack of exposure to microbes in the first year of life fails to teach the immune system to deal with threats correctly.

This sets the stage for an infection to come along in childhood, cause an immune malfunction and leukaemia.

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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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Could Fasting Help Treat Childhood Cancer?

leukaemiaAccording to recent research published in the journal Nature Medicine, intermittent fasting may help combat the most common type of childhood Leukaemia – Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL), also called Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia , is a cancer that begins in immature versions of white blood cells in the bone marrow, called lymphocytes.

All prohibits the maturation of certain cells, which then results in large numbers of immature, leukemic cells being released into the bloodstream, outweighing the number of healthy white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

This reduction in healthy white blood cells makes a patient vulnerable to infection, while low levels of platelets and red blood cells can lead to unusual bleeding and anaemia. Other signs and symptoms of ALL include fatigue, loss of appetite, fever, rib pain, and bone or joint pain.

According to the American Cancer Society, ALL is the most common form of childhood Leukaemia , accounting for around 3 in 4 Leukaemia cases in children.

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New Drug Combination Shows Promise in Tackling Leukaemia Treatment Resistance

leukaemiaEarly testing of a new drug combination that attacks the most common form of leukaemia on multiple fronts has shown great promise in targeting cancer cells.

Researchers from the University of Southampton, who were funded by the blood cancer charity Bloodwise, believe that the combination could overcome the problem of resistance to currently available drugs. The research was carried out in collaboration with researchers at the MD Anderson Cancer Center and Portola Pharmaceuticals in the USA.

Chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is the most common form of leukaemia, with over 4,000 cases in the UK every year. At the moment CLL is incurable, but in recent years, B-cell receptor (BCR) inhibitors have revolutionised treatment. However, some patients can become resistant to these types of drugs, and new therapies are much needed.

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Breakthrough in Cancer Cell Screening Advances Personalised Treatment of Childhood Leukaemia

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia Awareness RibbonAcute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia is the most common form of childhood cancer, but thanks to research, up to nine in 10 children diagnosed with ALL will now achieve a long-term cure. Unfortunately, in those whose disease relapses, the prognosis is not that good and fewer than 6 in 10 children survive longer than 5 years.

Researchers at Newcastle University have recently completed the largest study of its kind, and thanks to their findings, doctors will now be able to analyse the genetic profile of cancer cells to personalise treatment and improve survival rates.

The Newcastle study, Integration of genetic and clinical risk factors improves prognostication in relapsed childhood B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, published in the prestigious journal Blood, analysed leukaemia cells from 427 children treated for relapsed Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia between 2003 and 2013, using a variety of genetic tests including fluorescence in situ hybridisation (FISH), where glowing tags are bound to sequences of DNA within the cancer cells, allowing scientists to view specific genetic changes under a microscope.

Genetic faults within developing white blood cells kick-start and drive leukaemia growth. The types and combinations of genetic errors are known to influence whether a child is likely to respond well to initial treatment, which in turn affects whether they have a good or poor chance of survival.

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Could Sunlight Lower Leukaemia Risk?

Sunshine ~ we all love it; it brightens our mood, warms us, makes us feel alive, and smacks of summer, vacations, beach, braais, hikes, and all of those great outdoor past-times that we love.

Summer-Sun-1-We have also been warned that sunshine is bad for us… In recent years we have been taught to fear the sun because of the threat of skin cancer. Now there is a growing belief that exposure to the sun may not actually cause skin cancer. As a study published in the prestigious Cancer journal indicates, exposure to sun actually decreases cancer rates.”

The ideal way to get vitamin D is by exposing your skin to appropriate sunlight, but unfortunately many of us spend most of our day indoors and do not generally get sufficient sunlight.

Sun exposure (without sunscreen) of about 15 minutes a day will help your body produce sufficient natural VitaminD ~ when you put on your bathing suit and sunbathe for 30 minutes, your body produces about 20,000 IUs of vitamin D ~ as much as what can be found in about 200 glasses of milk, or the equivalent of about 50 typical multivitamins!

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Cancer Cells Survive Treatment by ‘Going to Sleep’

Genetic evidence shows cancer cells can 'go to sleep' therefore avoiding the effects of treatment, only to 'wake up' years later. Scientists believe it explains why some cancers return years, sometimes decades, after a patient is considered cured

One thing that has been puzzling those with cancer and the medical profession for aeons is the fact that one is never cured of cancer, one is always only in remission, with the chances of it returning at any time, even decades later.

Earlier this year, researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research in London published a study in the journal Leukemia, whereby they claim to have found the answer; the cancer cells can escape the effects of chemotherapy by “going to sleep,”  only to wake up years, sometimes even decades later. Read the rest of this entry

Are we Close to a Cure for Leukaemia?


Leukaemia is a cancer that occurs when abnormal blood stem cells (immature white blood cells) are produced in the bone marrow. Normally white cells develop, repair and reproduce in an orderly fashion. The leukaemia cells do not mature, and therefore are not able to function as immune cells, but they keep on dividing in the bone marrow.

The two most common types of leukaemia found in children are Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) and Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). Leukaemia accounts for about 35% of all childhood cancers.

pathophysiologyofleukemiaLeukaemia is notoriously difficult to treat as it often relapses and becomes resistant to treatment. Although treatment and cure rates have improved over the past 50 years, it is still fatal to most patients.

Even with all the progress, treatment for leukaemia is still painful and unpleasant especially for children. Cancer patients need to undergo chemotherapy, steroid use, radiation therapy and more. If the leukaemia does not respond to treatment, the patient may have to have a bone-marrow transplant, which means that a perfect match needs to be found, and that is not always easy to do.

Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML) is caused by an overproduction of immature white blood cells that are unable to function properly or fight infection, and interfere with normal blood cell production. Current cancer treatments stop the growth of cancer cells, but virtually always damage or destroy other healthy cells at the same time.

A recent study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, might just offer hope though, revealing that it’s possible to make leukemia cells kill each other.

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Researchers Engineer A ‘Cancer Differentiation Therapy’ For Leukaemia.

Some great strides being made in Leukaemia Research…

Stanford scientists change human leukemia cells into harmless immune cells - healthinnovations

Researchers at the Stanford University have discovered that when a certain aggressive leukemia is causing havoc in the body, the solution may be to force the cancer cells to grow up and behave.  After a chance observation in the lab, the researchers found a method that can cause dangerous leukemia cells to mature into harmless immune cells known as macrophages.  The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia with a mutation called the Philadelphia chromosome is a particularly aggressive cancer with poor outcomes state the team, so finding potential treatments is particularly exciting.

The researchers made the key observation after collecting leukemia cells from a patient and trying to keep the cells alive in a culture plate.  They were throwing everything at them to help them survive when they noted that some of the cancer cells in culture were changing shape and size into what looked like macrophages.  The team looked at previous studies, which showed that early B-cell mouse progenitor cells could be forced to become macrophages when exposed to certain transcription factors, proteins that bind to certain DNA sequences.

Read the Full Article on Health Innovations



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