Treatment for children with cancer has come a long way, with more children surviving than ever before. Although the survival rate is improving, many children will deal with life-long side effects as a result of their treatment. We need to make the next leap forward in discovering new cancer treatments that not only increase survival rates but also improve each child’s quality of life with fewer side effects. In order to accomplish this we have to improve our understanding of childhood cancer on a genetic level.
I am one of several researchers at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and the BloodCenter of Wisconsin studying cancer stem cells, specifically those in acute myeloid leukemia (AML), how they behave and what makes them different from normal blood cells. Stem cells are important because they can make many types of cancer unresponsive to chemotherapy, or return after chemotherapy first seems to have cleared it from the body.
Scientific advances in how we study and understand the genetics of cancer have opened the door to a new world of discovery. Uncovering what allows cancer stem cells to develop, how they work and why they don’t respond to chemotherapy is important in improving our understanding of diseases like AML. Learning how cancer stem cells use different genes will lead to better treatments with fewer side effects for patients with AML and other cancers.
My research is possible because of the generous contributions of individuals and foundations in our community, especially the $75,000 grant I received this week from the Hyundai Hope on Wheels program. Without this support, we couldn’t conduct the cutting-edge research needed to improve our understanding of cancer at a basic, genetic level and apply that knowledge to the development of better treatments.
National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month
Cancer remains one of the leading causes of death in children, and that’s why pediatric cancer research is so important. September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I hope you’ll help Children’s Hospital continue to provide the very best care for children with cancer and support our vital research. Please donate now to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Big or small, your gift can help get us closer to a cure.
~ Sam Milanovich, MD, fellow, Pediatrics Hematology/Oncology, Medical College of Wisconsin