Stories about: Research and Innovation

A parent’s guide to clinical trials

Photo of science lab

Children with life-threatening conditions, such as cancer, are often candidates for clinical trials. What are they? Which factors should parents weigh in determining whether enrolling in one is a good option for their child? Dr. Steven DuBois, director of the Advancing Childhood Cancer Therapies Clinic at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, answers questions about clinical trials.

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Pulmonary vein stenosis: A clinical trial in Jack’s juice glass

Jack, who has pulmonary vein stenosis, is pictured sitting on the back deck at this family homeAt just 6 months old, Jack Marquis was suddenly given four weeks to live. After he was born with complex congenital heart defects, Jack’s doctors in California had performed two open-heart surgeries that they thought would save Jack’s life.

But just when they thought he was out of the woods, Jack’s condition suddenly began to deteriorate rapidly.

“On top of everything else, we learned he had a rare condition called pulmonary vein stenosis,” says Jack’s father, Andrew.

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Experiencing how spinal fusion treats scoliosis before surgery day

Scoliosis patients and families look on as a nurse presents inside a simulation hospital room
The Spinal Program at Boston Children’s Orthopedic Center has partnered with the Simulator Program to offer a unique simulation experience to patients who will undergo surgical treatment for scoliosis, a procedure called spinal fusion, this summer.

“In my experience, patients do better when they are well prepared for surgery,” says Dr. Michael Glotzbecker, a pediatric spine specialist and surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital, who performs dozens of spinal fusion surgeries each year to treat children with scoliosis.

That’s why Glotzbecker teamed up with Brianna O’Connell, a child life specialist and program lead of simulation programs for patients and caregivers at the Boston Children’s SIMPeds Simulator Program, to create an immersive day for patients and their families to experience spinal fusion well ahead of surgery day.

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Twist of fate: Anna reconnects with the oncologist who saved her life

Anna survived childhood cancer.
Credit: Mark Dela Cruz

Anna Protsiou was five in 2002 when she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. She remembers pain and the fruit-scented anesthesia masks that led her to stop eating cherries. She remembers hospital arts and crafts projects. What she barely remembers is the pediatric oncologist who saved her life.

She was a young girl then who didn’t speak English, moving with her family from their native Greece to be treated for a year at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. Now, after moving with her family to Canada in 2014, she’s a 20-year-old dance student at the School of Contemporary Dancers/ University of Winnipeg and a contortionist with a rubber-band body. She’s ready to claim her history as her own, ready to move beyond photographs of the doctor and memories recounted by her parents, ready to take charge of her own health care.

So Anna traveled to Boston to meet her physician, Dr. Lisa Diller, and learn about potential late effects of the high-dose chemotherapy, radiation and two stem cell transplants that eradicated her cancer after surgeons excised her tumor.

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