Why Are We a Part of Wade’s Army?

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month, and we have been sharing awareness facts on our Facebook page daily. Today, to help spread awareness further, we feature a guest blog post from a member of Wade's Army in Cairns, Queensland, Australia! Natalie of CrossFit Coral Sea has put together an informative call to arms for her community, and we thought it would be great to share with everyone.

Thank you, Natalie!


-Natalie Dixon

8 September 2015

I thought we would provide some info as to why we are part of Wade's Army. In a nutshell, neuroblastoma is a an awful disesase that does not get a lot attention. Many people have never even heard of it.

Neuroblastoma represents approximately 7% of paediatric malignancies but it is responsible for 10-15% of childhood cancer-related mortality. Neuroblastoma is a tumour derived from immature nerve cells (originating from the neural crest). The average patient age is approximately 23 months but the disease can affect children under 6 months or rarely children over 5 years of age. Even unborn infants can be diagnosed with Neuroblastoma.

Neuroblastoma belongs to a group of cancers called ‘small round blue cell tumours’. It means that under the microscope the tumour has the appearance of small primitive cells exhibiting minimal differentiation. The tumour often forms structures that look like early foetal neural/nerve tissue rather than any mature adult tissue. A pathologist will see something like the attached picture when diagnosing this tumour - sheets of blue cells.

Neuroblastoma-childhood-cancer-awareness-wade's Army

Neuroblastoma is often centred on the adrenal gland but can be located in the chest cavity or pelvis. It has a markedly variable biology. Some tumours are well behaved and can actually spontaneously regress without any treatment at all. Unfortunately this is not the case for the majority of tumour types. ‘High-risk’ tumours grow very quickly and are often very advanced by the time the diagnosis is made. These more aggressive types have usually spread to other parts of the body - lymph nodes, liver and even the skin. Survival rates for these high-risk types can fall below 50% at 5 years.

There have been major advancements in the treatment of aggressive childhood tumours. A few decades or so ago Neuroblastoma was a death sentence. Now cure is possible. Surgery, chemotherapy, stem cell rescue/transplants, radiotherapy and immunotherapy can be all be part of the treatment regime.

We have also entered the golden age of “molecular” or “targeted” therapy. These new treatments attempt to target only the Neuroblastoma cancer cells that contain unique tumour proteins, rather than chemotherapy, which essentially damages all fast growing cells (including normal healthy tissue). The antibody drugs bind to molecules on the tumour cell surface and help the body’s natural immune system recognise the malignant cells and destroy them. An example of the newer treatments includes anti-disialoganglioside (GD2) antibodies that incite immune-mediated cytotoxicity toward neuroblastoma cells.

Although these targeted treatments offer new hope, they are only in early trial phases and further clinical development is required. The current treatment regime for most tumours remains intensive - aggressive treatment for an aggressive cancer. Please remember these are 2 year olds doing the fighting.

Wade's Army-Wade-Debruin-Neuroblastoma

So we have made progress. Some kids do exceptionally well and are thankfully cured of this terrible disease. But it is unwise to underestimate the biology of this tumour. If the patient is older, has advanced unresectable disease, if the tumour has spread to other sites, if it is undifferentiated under the microscope, if the tumour cells are dividing rapidly (high mitosis-karyorrhexis index), if the tumour has certain types of genetic mutations (MYCN or ALK gene amplifications) - then the future is very uncertain for that child and the worst can happen despite the fight. Tumour progression can be relentless and unresponsive to all modern medicine.

So we need your help. Donate to Wade’s army to support patients and their families through this battle and also help researchers undertake early phase medical trials to explore new targeted treatments (MATCH-NB trials) to destroy these small round blue cells.

Follow the link and donate now: www.classy.org/MuzzandNat

Tex McQuilkin

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Former collegiate lacrosse defensive midfielder, 4-year letter winner and 3-year team captain. Coached strength and conditioning collegiately with Georgetown University football, Men's and Women's lacrosse and Women's Crew, as well with the University of Texas at Austin's football program. Apprenticed under Raphael Ruiz of 1-FortyFour-1 studying proper implementation of science based, performance driven training systems. Head coached CrossFit Dupont's program for two years in Washington D.C. Received a Master's in Health Promotion Management from Marymount University in 2010, and has been a coach for Power Athlete since October, 2012.

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