Each September, Children’s of Alabama and community partners spotlight these young warriors and their battles to commemorate both National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month. Last year, nearly 200 children in Alabama were diagnosed with cancer and blood diseases. More than 90 percent of Alabama’s children with these illnesses receive treatment at the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Alabama.
A team of more than 300 dedicated pediatric healthcare professionals at the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Alabama provides care and treatment for nearly 1,500 children and adolescents with all types of cancers and blood disorders in the state and the surrounding region each year.
Girish Dhall, MD, division director for the Hematology, Oncology, and Blood & Marrow Transplantation program at Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Pediatrics, is focused on building a well-rounded program — a program that is strong in its clinical mission with a strong research base, which includes clinical, basic, and translational research.
“We already have a strong clinical program with top-notch faculty providing outstanding care to our patients as well as a strong clinical and translational research programs in the area of brain tumors, sickle cell disease, and survivorship. I hope to build on the existing strengths of the program and add clinical and translational research programs in leukemia and sarcomas. Eventually, my hope is that these efforts will lead to providing more cutting-edge therapies for children with cancer and blood disorders in the state of Alabama and the surrounding area for decades to come,” Dr. Dhall said.
“Over the last five decades, we have made significant strides in our fight against cancer. We are now able to cure approximately 80 percent of all childhood cancer patients compared to 10 percent in in the 1960s. However, the therapies we use, such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, sometimes have lasting side effects on our patients, especially young children.
In the last decade or so, there has been an explosion of scientific techniques that have helped us understand the biology of these cancers and what makes them grow. In the next 10 years, I hope that we will have a shift in designing treatments that are directed specifically at the cancer cells and genetic derangements within them and spare normal organs and tissues, i.e., provide therapies that are more effective and less toxic.”
The Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders represents a unique partnership of local, national and international centers of excellence. As a founding member of the Children’s Oncology Group – a worldwide clinical trials organization supported by the National Cancer Institute – research and innovative therapies done at Children’s and UAB will help save the lives of children right down the street and all over the world.
A summary of some of the current patient care programs and ongoing research advancements at the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders Children’s of Alabama is available at insidepeds.org/category/inside-pediatrics/hematology-and-oncology/.
None of this extraordinary patient care or promising research would be possible without generous support from the community and families who have been affected by pediatric cancers and blood disorders.
One way the community can support the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Alabama is by purchasing the Curing Childhood Cancer specialty car tag that is available at every office of the Alabama Department of Motor Vehicles. Every $50 tag generates $41.25 for the cancer program at Children’s. To date, tag sales have raised more than $3 million for childhood cancer research and patient care. When state residents renew or purchase a Curing Childhood Cancer tag, they are providing valuable funds for patient care, research and specialized physician training for the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Alabama. For more information about the Curing Childhood Cancer tag, visit www.childrensal.org/committedtoacure.
Another way to support the young patients facing childhood cancer and blood disorders is by registering as a potential blood and marrow donor. The Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program at Children’s of Alabama – the state’s only dedicated pediatric bone marrow transplant facility – specializes in therapies for deadly cancers and blood disorders including leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell disease. At Children’s, approximately 30 patients receive this lifesaving procedure every year. One of those patients was Jada Lewis. On Aug. 28, 2019, Lucas, 22, of Birmingham, met her lifesaving bone marrow donor, Jerome Lewis of Philadelphia. Lewis had registered with Be the Match when he was a freshman at Elon University, eleven years prior to receiving a call that he was a match. In 2017, he gave Lucas the lifesaving gift.
Joining the Be The Match Registry® means volunteering to be listed as a potential bone marrow donor, ready to save the life of any patient in need of a transplant. Anyone can easily join the registry by completing a health questionnaire and performing a simple mouth swab. If recognized as a match, they will be contacted about donating. For those who are unable to attend the event, donor kits with step-by-step instructions can be requested at join.bethematch.org/ChildrensAL.
Children’s invites the public to learn more about its clinical and research programs and to be involved in raising awareness and funding through the following avenues:
Details about all these events and others, including links to event pages and social media channels, are available at www.childrensal.org/committedtoacure.