How I’m working to make bone marrow transplants safer for kids

No child deserves cancer, but every child deserves a chance to beat it. For kids who have aggressive cancers, or cancer that has returned after standard treatments, a bone marrow transplant may be the only option to save their lives.

That’s where I come in. I’m a pediatric oncologist, and I’ve been researching ways to make bone marrow transplants safer. A bone marrow transplant can be a very difficult treatment. In some cases, the donor’s bone marrow cells end up attacking the child’s healthy cells. We call that graft versus host disease, and it can cause problems like rashes, stomach problems, weight loss and liver inflammation.

To avoid graft versus host disease, we can give kids medications to prevent or treat it, or we can also remove a small amount of special cells from the bone marrow, called T cells, before a patient receives his or her transplant. Unfortunately, both of these options can have serious side effects, the main one being infection.

We need a different way to do bone marrow transplants

Dr. Talano, Hope on Wheels

Dr. Talano received a grant from the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program.

In partnership with several other researchers, I have been taking cells from bone marrow donors before a transplant and training them to fight or prevent common infections in patients. We hope giving these cells to the patient a few months after the actual bone marrow transplant will improve their immune systems and keep them safe from infections.

Thanks to a $275,000 pediatric cancer research grant from the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program, we will be able to do a clinical trial this year using this new method of treatment. I hope it will help make bone marrow transplants safer and easier for our patients to handle.

All of this work is aimed at one goal: To have more children than ever cured of cancer.

National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

You might know September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and I hope you’ll take time to think about the importance of pediatric cancer research.

Whether I’m working on my research or seeing patients, every day I hope we’ll find break-through medicines, treatments and eventually a cure. I encourage you to help Children’s Hospital provide the very best care for children with cancer. Please donate now to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Big or small, your gift can help get us closer to a cure.

~ Julie Talano, MD, pediatric oncologist and physician scientist, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin
Julie Talano, MD 

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