25 Sep 2017
How elephants may help find the cure to childhood cancer
posted by: Gretchen
After talking to one friend whose child had cancer (and is now a survivor) and a survivor of childhood cancer, I decided to dig in a bit and find out a little more. I wanted to see what is really being done.
The background statistics of childhood cancer are staggering to say the least. Over 16,000 children are battling cancer in the United States every day. Sadly, the disease claims the lives of 2,500 children every year just in the United States.
From the stories that I heard no one really thought about cancer as being what was “wrong” with them [their child]. In the cases that I heard, there were other reasons to visit the doctor. One thought she had spider bites (a rash) that were causing weird bruises, one had enlarged nodes in her neck and the other had a crying child who used her mother’s intuition to fight and say – it has to be something more. In each of these stores the origin of the diagnosis really had nothing to do with cancer.
So what causes cancer? The types of cancers that develop in children are often different from the types that develop in adults. Childhood cancers are often the result of DNA changes in cells that take place very early in life, sometimes even before birth. Unlike many cancers in adults, childhood cancers are not strongly linked to lifestyle or environmental risk factors.
The treatment typically includes chemotherapy (also called chemo). Children’s bodies also tend to handle chemotherapy better than adults’ bodies do. On the other hand, children (especially very young children) are more likely to be affected by radiation therapy if it is needed as part of treatment. Both chemo and radiation therapy can cause long-term side effects, so children who have had cancer need careful follow-up for the rest of their lives. But honestly, wouldn’t it be cool to find a cure not a treatment? What if elephants might be the answer?
Elephants rarely get cancer. Dr. Joshua Schiffman, teen cancer survivor, teen cancer survivor, renowned Pediatric Hematologist-Oncologist and cancer researcher at Huntsman Cancer Institute in Utah, was part of the team that discovered elephants have 40 copies of a cancer fighting protein called p53 in their DNA – which may help protect elephants from cancer. Humans only have two copies of p53 in our DNA and some children that get cancer have only one. Since discovering the power of the elephant p53 protein, Dr. Schiffman and his research team have been working around the clock to bring the discovery to human trials in the fight to end cancer for people of all ages. He is seeking a cure not just a treatment.
As parents, don’t we often dream about or at least think about what I kids will become into their adult years? What kind of profession? How will they have a profound effect on the world around them? Dr. Shiffman is an example of the heartache to victory that I’m certain his family felt at having their son diagnosed with cancer at age 15 but then, taking that experience and doing amazing work in trying to find cures for childhood cancers.
You help support your kids through their trials and tribulations – maybe, after a bad day (especially this September), you can take them over to Kneaders’ for a Hope Fights Childhood Cancer Campaign elephant cookie (or several other elephant themed items). Every purchase helps support Dr. Shiffman’s ground-breaking research preventing childhood cancer.
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