By Kathy Walsh
DENVER (CBS4) – Researchers have found a cure for nearly every childhood cancer, all but one. In Colorado, students are joining scientists to tackle that rare cancer.
They are trying to find a treatment for an aggressive tumor of the brain stem called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).
“Unfortunately, DIPG is really the last incurable pediatric cancer,” said Dr. Adam Green, pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Fortunately, Green is dedicated to finding a cure. It was a dying 4-year-old who made DIPG his focus.
“You feel so helpless to be telling a family that you, as an oncologist who’s supposed to be able to provide treatments, really have no answers,” Green told CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.
The physician/scientist runs a lab searching for answers. This summer, college senior Natalie Philips is his research intern trying to see if an experimental drug can fight DIPG.
“It’s kind of like a give and take process … ‘Okay, let’s go this direction. What do you think?'” said Philips.
The 21-year-old has also joined Green at the bedside of a child with DIPG and no hope for survival.
“That was one of the hardest days of my life just to see the impact this disease can have on a family,” said Philips.
For now, the researchers have identified some promising treatments.
“I do feel hopeful that we have knowledge now that can at least tell us where we go next,” said Green.
Philips will go back to Davidson College in North Carolina more determined to become a physician/scientist and join the fight against the leading cause of cancer death in kids.
Philips took part in the Child Health Research Internship program (CHRI) on the Anschutz Medical Campus. The CHRI program is a unique partnership between Children’s Hospital Colorado and the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine that allows high school seniors, college students, graduate students and first-year medical students to conduct pediatric-focused research alongside some of the world’s leading medical researchers.
The CHRI program started in 2010. It is highly competitive. This year there were 562 applicants for 20 slots.
For more information go to the Child Health Research Internship page of childrenscolorado.org.
For more information on pediatric brain tumor research go to morganadamsfoundation.org.