Dr. Jeffrey Toretsky is a St. Baldrick’s researcher at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C. He explains what sarcoma is, how it’s diagnosed and treated, and how research is helping kids and adults with this type of cancer.
What is sarcoma?
A sarcoma is a bumpy tumor that occurs in the connective tissues (nerves, muscles and bones) anywhere in the body.
Sarcomas are rare, especially in young children. In kids between 10 and 20, sarcomas make up about 20-25% of childhood cancer diagnoses.
Sarcomas can start off being tiny lumps that you can’t feel. They can spread through the body, or metastasize, before they grow big enough to be seen.
It started as a lot of St. Baldrick’s Foundation events do: a few people getting together at the local spot to shave heads and help raise money for pediatric cancer research. After seeing volunteers participate, Terry Binkely-Paterno wanted to get involved in a different way.
And for very good reason, as her nephew, Aiden, had been diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in July of 2008. Wanting to take action, Terry and her mothers’ group – the Wednesday Mothers Club – decided to host a bake sale and contribute the proceeds.Terry (third from left) and other Ladies’ Night committee members.
(Left) Sean in treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. (Right) Sean with his mom, Marcia, and dad, Richard, during his graduation from Indiana University.
Honored Kid Sean Kligler graduated from college in May. The day was a tangle of emotions – happiness and sadness both.
“At graduation, I was happy — all those years of schooling finally paid off. I was able to get a college degree,” he said. “Of course, I was sad as well. I really enjoyed my time in college and I made some really good friends along the way.”
But there was another emotion mixed into that bittersweet day. It was gratitude. That’s because when Sean was 5 years old, he was diagnosed with childhood cancer. And when you have cancer, surviving to graduate college, or even attend college, is anything but guaranteed.
When Tom agreed to shave his head for the first time, he was simply doing it to help fund childhood cancer research. Then, Tom met Honored Kid Keira, and his decision to shave for St. Baldrick’s took on a whole new meaning.
Honored Kid and Honorary Firefighter Keira poses with her custom-made helmet at the O’Fallon fire station.
And the two of them are the best of friends.
Dr. Ralph Ermoian is a radiation oncologist and St. Baldrick’s infrastructure grant recipient at the University of Washington. He explains what proton therapy is, how it works, and how this treatment is helping kids and adults with cancer.
What is proton therapy?
Proton therapy is a type of radiation used commonly for children with cancer. Like traditional x-ray radiation, it is used to treat cancers, but proton therapy affects less of the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor.
Danielle Leach, our Director of Government Relations and Advocacy, received an exciting invitation last month — she was asked to speak to the House Appropriations Committee. Step into her shoes as she recounts her experience testifying to Congress about childhood cancer and the need for research funding.
Danielle testifies to Congress about childhood cancer.
Pediatric pathologist Dr. Erin Rudzinski is looking at rhabdomysarcoma on a molecular level, but her research has big implications for kids with this cancer. Read on to learn how this St. Baldrick’s researcher at Seattle Children’s Hospital is helping kids with cancer get the treatment they need.
These are images of classic alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (right) and embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma (left).
Do something to help cure childhood cancer.Aiden was the type of kid who lit up a room — friendly, smart, athletic, and caring.
As a baby, we marveled at how quickly he spoke. As he grew, he was kind to his friends and often stuck up for a peer who was being picked on. He played every sport, and although never the star player, he enjoyed team camaraderie (sometimes even with the other team as he made small talk with the kid on first base instead of watching the play).
In July 2008, Aiden was diagnosed with stage 4 rhabdomyosarcoma. This insidious cancer of the soft tissue was inoperable and located in Aiden’s pelvis. It had already spread to his lungs at the time of diagnosis.
Bob shares his best (and worst) ideas for a great head-shaving event.
St. Baldrick’s VEO Bob GaNun talks to a young shavee at his Floral Park event, which has raised over $1 million for pediatric cancer research.
It seemed like a good idea at first. “I thought, we’ll kick the beach balls around…it will be like a concert,” Bob said. But once they got the beach balls on the stage, things got hairy. “There was hair floating all over the place, hair sticking to the beach balls. Everybody popped them. But it was funny.”
Fun is what Bob brings to his St. Baldrick’s event year after year, and it works. Since 2009, his event at the Trinity Bar and Restaurant in Floral Park, New York, has raised over $1 million for children’s cancer research.
Curative chemotherapy for cancer was first realized in children. Survival rates for many of the common cancers in children improved dramatically through the last part of the 20th century. However, those cure rates have plateaued since the 1990s, and for some childhood cancers, we have seen little to no improvements.
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