Stories about: Research and Innovation

How precision medicine turned Jesus’ unique tumor into an operable one

Jesus stands on a playground jungle gym in August 2017, after a cancerous tumor was removed surgicallyOn a hot, August day in a Boston park, Jesus Apolinaris Cruz cooled off with a water squirt gun fight with his mother and sister. As he nimbly ran and dodged their aim, he twisted around to sneak shots of water back in their direction.  Peals of laughter rang out from the group as Jesus landed a jet of water on his sister.

It’s hard to imagine that just weeks earlier, Jesus, 13, had undergone surgery near his hip to remove an unclassified tumor, so-described because it couldn’t be categorized as any specific kind of cancer.

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The space between heartache and happiness: Two sons with adrenoleukodystrophy

Paul and Liliana Rojas with their sons, Brandon and Brian, both of whom have adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD).
The Rojas family at a recent visit to Boston Children’s.

When Paul and Liliana Rojas talk about their life, they describe it in one of two ways — the way it was before their sons, 10-year-old Brandon and 7-year-old Brian, were diagnosed with ALD, and the way it is after. Their story is one of heartbreak — but also hope, in the form of a new clinical trial.

Learn more about the results of the clinical trial, recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, that halted the progression of Brian’s ALD.

ALD is short for adrenoleukodystrophy, a debilitating brain disease that simply goes by its initials.

“Life before ALD was pure happiness without worries,” Paul says. “It was anything a parent could wish for — two boys with no medical issues, active, athletic, the healthiest boys ever.”

The two were inseparable. They played sports together in their hometown of Dover Plains, New York; idolized superheroes; danced like crazy; and dreamed of someday inventing video games. Brian was Brandon’s shadow.

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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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