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Experimental Treatment for Childhood Cancer

An experimental therapy may give new hope for children with cancer. It has, for 18-year-old Jamie Deutsch. Two years ago, she was diagnosed was a type of bone cancer common in children. Her prognosis was grim. Jamie's family turned to Columbia University Medical Center in New York where scientists are experimenting with a treatment called anti-angiogenesis.

Angiogenesis - or the sprouting of a new blood vessel from an existing blood vessel - is a normal physiological process. But the process also nourishes tumors and helps them grow.

Columbia University surgeon Jessica Kandel says that anti-angiogenesis therapy - with drugs that prevent vessel growth - shows promise in the treatment of cancer at advanced stages. "The tumor cells effectively starve. And, so we can prevent them from growing further. Even more excitingly," she adds, "It seems that by preventing new blood vessels from growing we block tumor cells from entering the circulation. And, so we may be able to prevent them from spreading further."

Initial human trials revealed that medicines, which blocked angiogenesis can prolong life and, unlike traditional chemotherapy drugs, are generally well tolerated. Jamie Deutsch is responding well to the treatment, coupled with a low dose of chemotherapy. Jamie's father says his daughter is a survivor. "Jamie since day one has said, "This stinks. I don't wish this on anyone, but I am going to beat this and get better."

Jamie plans to attend college in September. "I am a normal kid and [I want people to] treat me like a normal kid because that is what I want," she says.

While the findings are promising, Kendal says not all cancers are the same and what works for one type of tumor may not work for another. The next larger stage of clinical trials is set to begin shortly.