Each year approximately 4,000 kids are diagnosed with brain tumors. These 4,000 kids are dealing with an abnormal growth in the most sensitive part of their body. This is the part of the body that controls speech, balance, running, jumping, talking, hearing, smelling, loving, and emotionalizing all that is good about life, love and happiness. This is not a leg pain or a shoulder bruise. This disease changes one's personality and a person's ability to be a person. And that is only if a child is lucky enough to survive the disease. It is a disease that is killing kids faster than any other childhood cancer. It is No. 1.
While it is true that nearly 30% of all children afflicted by a brain tumor will pass from their disease, it is also true that the remaining 70% that actually survive the disease are often times left with permanent disabilities that they will spend a lifetime trying to overcome or compensate for. Brain tumors often cause seizure disorders, memory loss, cognition problems, loss of eyesight, and other permanent deficits. This is a lifetime disease. Forever. That is how long kids have to fight a pediatric brain tumor, in some form, shape or fashion.
Here are the current treatment modalities – neurosurgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Neurosurgery. This is the process where a neurosurgeon performs craniotomy, which is revising a part of the skull to the brain, and then attempts to distinguish abnormal cells from good brain tumor tissue, in real-time, under a microscope. With a 1-4% operating table mortality rate (depending on the institution where the surgery is performed), and the suffering of other deficits as a result of the surgery a 10% risk, this is generally the first line of defense against this disease. Chemotherapy. Scorched earth. Want to chop down a tree in the forest? Childhood cancer medication says the best way to do that is to start a forest fire. Children are given cancer drugs that were designed for adult cancers, frequently cancers unrelated to the brain, and are approved to be administered to children. It’s like a hail mary pass. The first line therapy is nearly 30 years old. Once that method fails a child, the next toxic potion of adult cancer drugs is given to these kids. The side effects vary from kidney failure to secondary cancers. Regrettably, those are small prices to pay in this business. Radiation. Depending on tumor grade, extent of resection, and practitioner’s preference, children are often times required to go through a form of radiation therapy. While pin-point radiation methods have evolved, and are starting to be used on children, the fact remains that a child’s brain is having radiation attack it. Such exposure to a young developing brain can cause permanent neurological deficits that will forever, essentially, keep the child at the age that they were when they received the radiation. Memory loss, stroke-like symptoms, and poor brain function are all side effects of a radiated brain. The development of terminal brain cancer, at some point in the future, is also a risk of radiation therapy.
We are committed to the belief that no child should have to go through such a barbaric treatment cycle. We will not stop until pediatric oncological neurosurgeons, pediatric neuro-oncologists, and pediatric radiation-oncologists are out of business. We are working to put ourselves out of business.