Stories about: CAR T-cell

Pediatric leukemia: A guide for parents

8-year-old leukemia patient visits with her doctor
Dr. Leslie Lehmann and pediatric leukemia patient, Emma Duffin

What is leukemia?

Leukemia is a type of cancer that starts in early forms of white blood cells. White blood cells are cells that typically fight infections. Early forms of white blood cells live in bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside most bones in the body. When early white blood cells become leukemia (or cancer cells), they grow out of control and crowd out the normal young blood cells in the bone marrow. From there, the cancerous cells spread through the blood to other parts of the body.

Leukemia is either fast growing (acute) or slower growing (chronic). Almost all leukemia in children is acute. From most common to most rare, the four types of pediatric leukemia are: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) and juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML). ALL affects white blood cells called lymphocytes, whereas AML affects white blood cells called myeloid cells.

How is leukemia diagnosed?

The first test usually performed to diagnose leukemia is a complete blood count (CBC) to determine how many types of each blood cell are in the blood. Children with leukemia often do not have normal numbers of red blood cells and platelets.

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Brother donates stem cells to sister battling leukemia

Gia Lesselroth (consent # 8036) is leukemia/transplant patient. For her visit she is accoompanied by her mother Marissa and her brother Logan who was her donor. With nurse Erin Santacroce, RN, BSN

On September 24, 2015, in a sixth floor room at Boston Children’s Hospital, 5-year-old Logan Lesselroth pressed the button that started the transfer of his newly harvested blood stem cells to his 3-year-old sister, Gianna.

“This,” Gianna told him, “is a gift from your body.”

The path to that moment and the stem cell transplant’s potential to cure Gianna of her relapsed leukemia was anything but straightforward. Logan has a genetic condition called medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency (MCADD), which makes it difficult for his body to convert sugar to energy. Would his metabolic disorder be passed to Gianna? Would the disorder make it too risky for Logan to have his stem cells harvested?

Diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 4½ months, Gianna achieved a remission that lasted two years. In May 2015, the leukemia was back. With that, Mike and Marissa Lesselroth sought options for their daughter in their home state of Florida and beyond. “We talked to her doctors in Florida, and they agreed that coming to Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s was the best choice for Gianna because they offered a lot of treatment options for relapsed leukemia,” Mike says.

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