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Childhood Cancer

How Your Donations Helped Zach Beat Childhood Cancer

by St. Baldrick's Foundation
December 11, 2018

Most six-year-old boys spend their time thinking about toys, candy and getting to school on time. Few need to worry about their health at such a young age, and even fewer face the uncertain future following a cancer diagnosis.

Fighting cancer was Zach’s world when he was six. In 2007, he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL. Over the next four years, Zach underwent intense and physically demanding treatments like chemotherapy and radiation.

Zach before and after his immunotherapy clinical trial.

Zach vs. “The Beast”: Rounds 1 to 3

The first time he faced it, Zach fought ALL into remission. For about a year, Zach lived like other boys, and knocked about with his older brothers, Ben and Gabriel.

When he was 11 the cancer returned and Zach faced ALL for a second time. For the next three years, he underwent progressively more intensive treatments that pushed his mind and body to their limits. Nevertheless, by age 14 Zach had again prevailed.

Unfortunately, Zach’s cancer returned a third time. By the time he was 17, Zach had faced cancer three times. It’s little surprise, then, that at this point he started referring to it as “The Beast”.

Immunotherapy Clinical Trial: A Turning Point

Zach’s third encounter with The Beast was as grueling as the first two. After months of intense chemotherapy treatments and hospitalizations, Zach and his family learned he was still not in remission.

This was a problem. Only when in remission could Zach get a bone marrow transplant (BMT) that would give him a chance to live like other teenage kids. BMT was not an option for Zach.

Finally, some good news came from Zach’s doctor, Dr. Kevin J. Curran, a pediatric oncologist and St. Baldrick’s Scholar. Dr. Curran told Zach he’d qualified for a new clinical trial using CAR T-cell immunotherapy. It had the potential to help Zach get into remission and have the BMT.

Zach’s participation in the CAR T-cell therapy was a turning point. Although he was told the therapy could leave him very ill, Zach powered through with minimal side effects. After three weeks, Zach was in full remission and could have the BMT.

Zach’s brother, Ben, stepped up to provide his brother with the bone marrow transplant he desperately needed. In spite of the pain and discomfort he experienced while preparing for the transplant, Ben showed little hesitation, knowing the procedure could save Zach’s life.

In the end, the BMT was a success. After a few weeks, Zach learned he was cancer-free and went home to his family, his friends, and a new, two-year-old rescue dog named Buddy.

Dr. Curran meeting with a patient.

Help Kids Fight Cancer Like Zach Did

Zach’s story is a remarkable one. But the research and clinical trial that helped save him can be used to help others with childhood cancers like ALL. The treatments required to save kids like Zach are very expensive and require the support of organizations like the St. Baldrick’s Foundation and donors like you.

Many childhood cancer survivors like Zach continue to face serious health challenges in the years following their treatment. Some will encounter physical health problems stemming from years of intense chemotherapy and radiation. Others fall behind in school after spending weeks, sometimes months, in hospital rooms.

Give the Gift of Hope This Holiday Season

We need to help support cancer survivors and continue to advance childhood cancer research. This season, we’re asking you to give kids with cancer the gift of hope by making a donation.

In doing so, you can help other kids beat cancer. You can help St. Baldrick’s fund childhood cancer research and clinical trials – like the immunotherapy trial that proved a turning point for Zach and his family.

Please help us take childhood back from cancer this holiday season. Donate to St. Baldrick’s today.

Childhood cancer cures start with you. Fund lifesaving research today.