Stories about: Research

Treating childhood cancer: 60 years of progress

Jean in 1968

When Jean Shaw first came to Children’s Hospital Boston in 1951, the world was a rapidly changing place. The Korean War was escalating new tensions between America and the Soviet Union, a reactor in Idaho became the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power source and teenagers everywhere were discovering a new type of music called rock n’ roll.

Fortunately for Jean, the world of medicine was changing as well.

When she arrived in Boston to seek a cure for osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that occurs most often in teenagers, the standard treatment was amputation. It was a successful method in the short-term, but over time the cancer came back, often in a more lethal form like lung cancer. Given the severity of the diagnosis, Jean’s mother was frightened. It was a great relief when their doctor, Sydney Farber, MD, said he saw a different treatment option for the young girl.

Sydney Farber, MD

“When the doctor in our home town told my mama I had bone cancer she was terrified, because the doctor said he hadn’t known of any child who survived the disease, even after they had their limb removed,” Jean remembers. “Still, he suggested we go to Children’s Hospital Boston to see if they could help. When we got there Dr. Farber took a look at me and said there may be a different way to treat me.”

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Finding the missing links: adoptive kids and health history

Foster parents may not have access to early health information which can make it difficult to foresee potential health issues

A recent study by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics reveals surprising news about adopted children’s health: They’re three times more likely to develop physical and mental health disabilities than kids raised by their biological parents. Could childhood adoption really portend serious health problems?

Lisa Albers Prock, MD, MPH, director of the Adoption Program at Children’s Hospital Boston says that the findings have less to do with adoption itself and more to do with unknown family health history and missing information regarding a child’s early infancy. Not having that early health information can make it difficult to foresee potential health issues and genetic predispositions that might cause a condition later.

Albers Prock is quick to point out that just because adoptive parents may lack their child’s family health history, it doesn’t mean there should be a difference in the way they care for their child. Like any other child, she recommends simple attentiveness to a child’s well-being. “Adoption is not a problem, or a diagnosis,” says Albers Prock. “But for some, there are additional factors to consider.”

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No place like home? One in four LGB teens are driven out

Tragic stories of teens being bullied and ostracized at school have been saturating media headlines. But while these tales are making news, there’s another story to be told: that of homosexual teens’ estrangement—even banishment—from their families.

According to the recent Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS), one in four teens who identify themselves as lesbian or gay are homeless, and a study in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) says that it’s more likely that these teens are being driven out of their homes by their parents. Supporting this are findings from studies of homeless youth living apart from their families. One such study shows that 73 percent of homeless gay and lesbian teens indicated that they were homeless because their parents disapproved of their sexual orientation.

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Public health benefits of breastfeeding

Breast FeedingKimberly Barbas, BSN, RN, IBCLC, is a lactation specialist at Children’s Hospital Boston’s  Lactation Support Program.

How much does breastfeeding cost? How much money can be saved? In today’s health reform climate, it’s always about the bottom line. So for those of us who have for years championed breastfeeding as one of the best choices moms can make for the health of their children, a new study by Dr. Melissa Bartick and Arnold Reinhold in this week’s journal Pediatrics provides the financial data to support the choice to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months of a child’s life.

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