Many people are not aware of the extent of childhood cancers in our country.
More than 40,000 children undergo
cancer treatment each year in the US. 1 in 5 will not respond to first-line standard therapies
or will relapse within a few years. Patients with brain tumors that persist
despite surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation face an especially bleak
prognosis. For example, Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) is virtually
incurable. For some cancers, such as Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
or Hodgkin Lymphoma, second-line therapies are often successful. But for
many others, such as cancers of the bone (Osteosarcoma and Ewing Sarcoma),
liver (Hepatoblastoma), muscle (Rhabodmyosarcoma), and sympathetic nervous
system (Neuroblastoma), curative options remain elusive if “Plan
A” does not work. Despite numerous clinical trials testing new experimental
treatments, a child’s insurance coverage and geographical location
often limits their access to these options.
The age of a child at the time of diagnosis often make a big difference.
Children with a form of ALL called Infant ALL fare a little better if
they are diagnosed closer to their 1st birthday than those who are only a few months old. Teenagers with ALL
do worse than their kindergarten or preschool counterparts.
Even those who respond to standard treatments and are free of their cancer
are not out of the woods. 70% of long-term childhood cancer survivors
have a chronic illness as a consequence of their cancer treatment. Survivors
are at a higher risk of heart disease, strokes, and second cancers early
in life. Some have even called this “premature aging.” Many
survivors are left with depression and anxiety, and some even have post-traumatic
With the great progress made in treating childhood cancers, what is often
overlooked is one terrifying fact: The percentage of children diagnosed
with cancer is increasing every year. It has gone up 24% over the last
40 years. In 2014, 1 in 285 children in the US were diagnosed with cancer.
That is about 2 children in every average-sized elementary school. Very
little is being done to find out why the rates are increasing. It likely
is not due to just one cause. It is probably a combination of environment,
genetics, nutrition, and the lifestyle habits of parents and grandparents.
With the unacceptable rates of cure, risk of side effects from treatment,
and increase in childhood cancer, new ways of attacking cancer in children
and new ways of giving chemotherapy need to be identified. One vulnerable
part of childhood cancer that has not been fully explored for treatment
is glucose. Cancer's reliance on this energy source, which it obtains
from the patient's blood stream, makes it particularly sensitive to
changes in glucose levels. By applying low glucose states to the patient,
such as with intermittent fasting and injecting insulin, we believe cancer
will be more susceptible to chemotherapy. Therefore, smaller amounts of
chemotherapy can be used, which often translates to fewer side effects
for the patient such as hair loss, nausea, fatigue, and a compromised
immune system. It also means less chance of having to be hospitalized.
This way for giving chemotherapy has been around since the 1930s and is
being studied in adults, but to our knowledge, it has never been studied
in children. We are planning to have a research study open in the next
few months to test this way of treating cancer in children.
One of the newest and fastest growing areas of cancer treatment is with
personalized medicine. In this way, a patient's cancer treatment is
tailored using information obtained from the patient’s cancer itself,
instead of an average of a large groups of patients. We utilize a technology
that tests the patient's cancer cells against numerous chemotherapy
drugs and botanical or naturopathic treatments, and identifies genetic
information of the cancer that make it susceptible to specialized small
molecule drugs and antibodies. We feel this personalized cancer treatment
is the wave of the future for beating cancer.
In addition, diet plays a major part to play in the body's natural
immune system and ability to fight foreign invaders, such as viruses and
cancer. Far too often in standard cancer treatment, the focus remains
on the number of calories a child is taking in each day. The variety and
quality of nutrition a patient takes in is very important. Replacing nutritional
deficiencies, whether from poor intake or genetic variations, is part
of our standard cancer treatment. This can be done by selecting certain
foods to eat, taking nutritional supplements, or by direct replacement
into a vein through an IV infusion. Additionally, avoiding environmental
toxins in the air we breathe, water we drink, and food we eat also helps
support the immune system.
Building upon our experience in treating adults with Stage 3 and 4 cancers,
as well as the experience of our colleagues from around the world, we
are excited to offer our holistic, personalized, and integrative cancer
treatment to children. This will be available as soon as our study has
been approved by our Institutional Review Board.