May 20, 2019

Dr. Ken McClain, co-director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers Histiocytosis Program, recently received the 2019 George R. Buchanan Lectureship Award from the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASPHO). He is the fourth recipient of this national award honoring a significant contributor in the field.

Specifically, the award recognizes McClain as an international expert in pediatric hematology/oncology, an accomplished educator, committed mentor and effective speaker whose significant research, education and clinical expertise is of the caliber of achievements made by Buchanan, who made scientific contributions in many areas of pediatric hematology and oncology, and has been recognized as an outstanding teacher and mentor.

As part of receiving the Buchanan award, McClain was invited to present a 35 minute state-of-the-art lecture describing his research following the award presentation earlier this month. His talk was on the history of Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis.

Dr. Sharon Plon, co-director of the Texas Children’s Cancer Center’s Cancer Genetics and Genomics Program, has been appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research until 2020. The council advises government agencies on genetics, genomic research, training and programs related to the human genome initiative.

In addition, Plon recently received the 11th annual Niehaus Southworth Weissenbach Award in Clinical Cancer Genetics from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. As part of the award events, she delivered Medical Grand Rounds on “Genetic Predisposition to Childhood Cancer in the Genomic Era” and consulted with genetics clinicians.

May 14, 2019

Not too long ago a child with hepatocellular carcinoma – a rare liver cancer – would have few options for treatment and even fewer chances of long term survival.

In most cases, these tumors are discovered so late that surgery and transplant are not viable options to save a young child’s life. Families could hope for recovery, but the odds would not support their optimism.

The good news is that today is a new day.

A multidisciplinary team, led by Dr. Kamlesh Kukreja, expert in Interventional Radiology; is successfully performing the Trans-Arterial Radioembolization procedure – called TARE – on children who have this rare disease.

“There are only three hospitals in the country performing TARE and we are one of them,” Kukreja said. “We are the only one in the state of Texas.”

He added that TARE has the potential to regress tumors and help patients live with their own liver or keep the tumor in control until a liver transplant is available. An additional advantage is that TARE is an outpatient procedure, which allows the child to recover at home.

How it all works

TARE is administered in two steps. Step one involves identifying the angiographic anatomy of the tumor mapping the vascular supply of the cancer to assess how much radiation it can handle, while still keeping the patient safe.

“Two to four weeks after this mapping, the patient returns for the radioactive chemical agent – called Yttrium-90 (Y90) – to be administered directly to the artery supplying the tumor,” Kukreja said. “This administration is targeted and direct, which allows for higher doses of radiation to be administered with minimal side effects; unlike systemic chemotherapy, which has been found to not work well in these cases.”

Record of Success

Kukreja has successfully performed TARE on two patients to date with one patient showing a clear regression in the growth of the tumor allowing complete surgical resection.

Although Texas Children’s is one of the pioneers of TARE in pediatrics, it’s important to note that TARE is a frontline therapy at adult hospitals for patients with the most common type of liver cancer. Accumulating evidence from studies with adult liver cancer suggests that TARE is a promising strategy which may benefit children as well.

The people that make It possible

“We are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish so far and the way we have raised the standard of care for our patient families,” Dr. Kukreja added. “We are also proud that a multidisciplinary team has made this possible.”

The decision to use this approach is first made by a multidisciplinary team involving:

Dr. Prakash Masand, Radiology
Dr. Andras Heczey, Oncology
Dr. Sanjeev Vasudevan, Pediatric Surgery
Dr. John Goss, Transplant surgery

The hands-on clinical teams at Texas Children’s include interventional radiology, nuclear medicine, radiation safety, anesthesia and Dr. Armeen Mahvash, associate professor at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

To Learn More

If you know a patient who could benefit from this treatment, please reach out to the department of Interventional Radiology at 832-824-5565 or liver tumor team at https://www.texaschildrens.org/departments/liver-tumor-program. Dr. Kukreja can be reached at kukukrej@texaschildrens.org/kukreja@bcm.edu.

May 13, 2019

Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers recently honored four team members with the Bravo Award for going above and beyond to ensure our patients and families receive the best possible care.

The award is handed out quarterly and recognizes nurses and other professional staff in the Cancer and Hematology Centers for outstanding performance. Anyone within the Texas Children’s system may nominate a member of the cancer and hematology teams for this award. The team’s clinic leadership will select the winners.

Last quarter’s winners of the Bravo Award were:

Ashley Bernal, a social worker at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, was recognized for her tireless work with our hematology and oncology patients in the Katy area. She goes above and beyond to stay late if a situation needs her assistance, adapts her role to the needs of families, and can handle the most difficult of social situations with compassion.

Janet DeJean, a clinical specialist at Texas Children’s Hospital Main Campus, is a long-time leader and is involved in almost every aspect of care we provide. She trains nursing staff throughout the Medical Center Campus and is crucial in the implementation of new clinical workflows. She also is a dedicated volunteer for our patients at Camp Periwinkle.

Robin Haidacher, a leukemia nurse coordinator at Texas Children’s Hospital Main Campus, is dedicated to improving the quality of care for her patients. She plans ahead, is accessible to families both at home and in the clinic, and she has been instrumental in training newer nurse coordinators.

Juan Salinas, a bone marrow transplant patient care assistant, is an 18-year veteran on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit assisting with monitoring patient needs. His knowledge and experience have allowed him to identify potential deterioration in patients that led to early attention to their needs. He watches out for his co-workers and frequently picks up extra shifts when the unit needs help.

“We can’t be one of the top pediatric cancer and hematology centers in the country without the efforts of many people across a wide variety of disciplines,” said Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers Clinical Director Dr. Timothy Porea. “Thank you all for the hard work you put in each and every day.”

The photos above picture from left to right: Ashley Bernal, Robin Haidacher, Janet DeJean, and Juan Salinas. You can click the image to enlarge it.

May 6, 2019

Three-year-old Wade Davis rarely laughed or smiled as a baby. Before coming to Texas Children’s Hospital two years ago, the now energetic, gregarious little boy was very subdued.

“I just thought he was a serious child,” said Wade’s mom, Katie Davis. “I didn’t think there was anything physically wrong with him.”

But there was, and Katie quickly learned after a trip to the emergency room that Wade had a rare form of cancer in both of his eyes. Called retinoblastoma, the cancer begins in the back of the eye and is most commonly found in young children. Only 300 cases are diagnosed in the United States each year.

To get the best care, Wade and his family traveled from their home in Lacassine, Louisiana, to the Texas Medical Center where they met with members of the Retinoblastoma Center of Houston, the only center of its kind in the southwest United States.

Created a decade ago, the center combines expertise from Texas Children’s Cancer Center, the Children’s Cancer Hospital at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston Methodist Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine. Together these specialists pioneer advancements in treating and curing retinoblastoma through ground-breaking research and the development of innovative therapies.

The center sees 20 to 25 patients a year, offering each one access to a team comprised of an ocular oncologist, pediatric oncologist, ophthalmic pathologist, cancer geneticist, genetic counselor, radiation oncologist, interventional radiologist, nurse practitioner, nurse coordinator and social worker. The team’s multidisciplinary approach results in an individualized treatment plan for each patient.

Depending on the kind and stage of retinoblastoma, the team offers treatments such as intra-arterial chemotherapy, intravitreal chemotherapy, systemic chemotherapy, laser therapy, cryotherapy, enucleation, proton beam radiation therapy, and brachytherapy. In children with widely metastatic disease, the center offers therapies such as autologous stem cell transplant.

“No other program of this type has the level of multidisciplinary expertise that we have at the Retinoblastoma Center of Houston,” said Dr. Murali Chintagumpala, clinical co-director of the center, pediatric oncologist at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “We are on the cutting edge of research performing important clinical trials that incorporate innovate treatment options such as intra-arterial, intravitreal and proton radiation therapy.”

For Wade, and other children like him, the center and its experts saved and changed his life. Dr. Dan Gombos, clinical co-director of the Retinoblastoma Center of Houston and ocular oncologist for the Children’s Cancer Hospital at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Dr. Frank Lin, a member of the center, a pediatric oncologist at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and Assistant Professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Section of Hematology/Oncology, at Baylor College of Medicine, were his primary physicians.

Working together with the rest of the center’s team, Gombos and Lin devised a comprehensive treatment plan for Wade that included surgery, multiple rounds of chemotherapy, cryotherapy and laser therapy. Fortunately, the vision in his right eye was saved and his cancer has been eradicated, allowing him to blossom into a feisty, full-of-life little boy.

“We are so thankful for what these doctors have done for our son,” Katie Davis said. “Everyone has been absolutely incredible.”

Lin said it’s a privilege to be able to work with patients like Wade and to be celebrating 10 years of partnership with other members of the Retinoblastoma Center of Houston.

“Our goal, beyond curing this disease, is to use the least invasive treatment necessary to save the child’s life, and when possible, their eye and their vision,” Lin said. “With the Retinoblastoma Center of Houston, our patients meet world class specialists focused on both their immediate oncology treatment as well as long-term follow-up so that they can thrive in the future. The center also provides them invaluable information about the genetics of their tumor and the risk to future siblings or ultimately their own children so that monitoring for early detection can be performed.”

The center currently is focusing its research on more effective ways of delivering therapy locally to the affected eyes while minimizing the side effects on the rest of the body. The center is also studying the mechanisms that spread the disease beyond the eye in children with retinoblastoma with the goal of developing treatments for this complication of the disease.

To learn more, visit the Retinoblastoma Center of Houston’s Website at rbhouston.org.

April 22, 2019

The Purple Songs Can Fly documentary, “Journey to Hope,” was recognized with the Platinum Remi Award at the 2019 WorldFest-Houston.

“My father must have orchestrated this from heaven along with all the other angels watching over Mia, Layla, Dominic, Emily, Stephen and Christian,” said Anita Kruse, founder and executive director of Purple Songs Can Fly. “Thank you. Your love is eternal and shows us that hope is always here. This one’s for you.”

Purple Songs Can Fly, the first recording studio created on a pediatric cancer floor, was founded in 2006 at Texas Children’s Hospital. Thirteen years and thousands of songs later, six childhood cancer patients, Mia, Layla, Dominic, Emily, Stephen and Christian, come together as survivors to share “Journey to Hope,” an original musical featuring their own songs. Written and recorded in the Purple Songs Can Fly studio during their individual cancer journeys, these songs were created as a way to express the myriad of emotions and feelings a pediatric cancer diagnosis may bring.

“We were thrilled to be included in this year’s line up at WorldFest-Houston, alongside many other wonderful, independent films,” Kruse said. “It was a great stage for our story to be told, truly shining a light on pediatric cancer.”

Now in its 52nd year, WorldFest, the Houston International Film Festival, showcased more than 60 new independent feature films and more than 100 award-winning shorts from around the globe. The WorldFest mission is to recognize and honor outstanding creative achievement in film and video, while educating and introducing excellence in cinematic arts for the promotion of cultural tourism in Houston. Founded in 1961 as an international film society, it evolved into a competitive international film festival in 1968, and became the third such festival in North America, following San Francisco and New York.

“We’re so proud of Anita and the incredible patients who created such a beautiful film,” said Carol Herron, coordinator of the Periwinkle Arts In Medicine Program at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers. “Purple Songs Can Fly has provided hundreds of patients and siblings the gift of sharing their journey through song, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to share this special piece with our community.”

To view the trailer, visit “Journey to Hope.” For more information about Purple Songs Can Fly, visit www.purplesongcanfly.org and for more information about 2019 WorldFest-Houston, visit www.worldfest.org.

April 2, 2019

The 2019 WorldFest-Houston will shine light on pediatric cancer with the showing of the Purple Songs Can Fly documentary, “Journey to Hope.”

Purple Songs Can Fly, the first recording studio created on a pediatric cancer floor, was founded in 2006 at Texas Children’s Hospital. Thirteen years and thousands of songs later, six childhood cancer patients, Mia, Layla, Dominic, Emily, Stephen and Christian, come together as survivors to share “Journey to Hope,” an original musical featuring their own songs. Written and recorded in the Purple Songs Can Fly studio during their individual cancer journeys, these songs were created as a way to express the myriad of emotions and feelings a pediatric cancer diagnosis may bring.

“We’re thrilled to be included in this year’s line up at WorldFest-Houston, alongside many other wonderful, independent films,” said Anita Kruse, founder and executive director of Purple Songs Can Fly. “This is a great stage for our story to be told, truly shining a light on pediatric cancer.”

Now in its 52nd year, WorldFest, the Houston International Film Festival, will showcase more than 60 new independent feature films and more than 100 award-winning shorts from around the globe. The WorldFest mission is to recognize and honor outstanding creative achievement in film and video, while educating and introducing excellence in cinematic arts for the promotion of cultural tourism in Houston. Founded in 1961 as an international film society, it evolved into a competitive international film festival in 1968, and became the third such festival in North America, following San Francisco and New York.

“We’re so proud of Anita and the incredible patients who created such a beautiful film,” said Carol Herron, coordinator of the Periwinkle Arts In Medicine Program at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers. “Purple Songs Can Fly has provided hundreds of patients and siblings the gift of sharing their journey through song, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to share this special piece with our community.”

The Purple Songs Can Fly documentary, “Journey to Hope” will be shown at 3 p.m. Sunday, Apr at Memorial City Cinemark 16 Theaters, located at Memorial City Mall, 301 Memorial Way in Houston. All events are open to the general public. Tickets start at $7.50 for matinees and are available online https://worldfest.org or at the Cinemark Memorial City box office.

To view the trailer, visit “Journey to Hope.” For more information about Purple Songs Can Fly, visit http://www.purplesongcanfly.org/ and for more information about 2019 WorldFest-Houston, visit http://www.worldfest.org/.