Promising Yale study underway in the fight against pediatric brain tumors

NEW HAVEN, (WTNH) — In a Yale School of Medicine laboratory, Pediatric Oncologist Dr. Juan Vasquez, is working hard at coming up with a vaccine to fight off brain tumors in children.

“The whole idea is that we give a vaccine that stimulates the immune system to attack that specific protein so that it can kill the tumor cells while sparing the normal cells of the body,” Vasquez said.

Still preliminary, but results are more than encouraging.

“In the lab, we’re seeing that these types of vaccines when we get it to the patient’s cells in the culture, they do lead to a development of this immunity that can help kill the tumor cells.”

The lead study investigator is also looking to combine drugs already tried on adult tumors.

“Our hope is to actually combine those along with the vaccine, to really give that immune system the kick start that it needs to attack the tumor.”

All to cure or prevent the relapse of one of the deadliest cancer killers in children.

Research, important to families like Jennifer McGettigan.

Related Content: WTNH teams up with Cusano Family Brain Tumor Fund

She says, “This is all what we have to hold onto. In the last 20 years, there has been nothing for pediatric brain cancer research.”

Her son Ethan was diagnosed with a brain tumor at two years old, but is now an active five year old — after surgery, radiation, chemotherapy targeted the tumor.

He is closely monitored, but those first 40 days were excruciating.

Jennifer says, “he contracted meningitis, his lungs collapsed and he was just a mess but he is a fighter like no one has ever met.”

Raising awareness for funding this potentially breakthrough study is now a personal mission.

If it’s not your child, it’s easy to just shy away from it,” she says.

Thanks to St. Baldrick’s Foundation,  Dr. Vasquez is steps closer to developing the vaccine.

He says, “funding that is specific to kids is pretty disproportionately low compared to adult funding, so St. Baldrick’s helps fill in that gap.”

Dr. Vasquez received nearly $100,000 for his research.

Every two minutes, a child is diagnosed with cancer.

Since 2005, St. Baldrick’s has funded more than 230 million in lifesaving childhood research grants.

For more information on the St. Baldrick’s Foundation go to www.stbaldricks.org

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