Each year in the U.S., about 4,000 children are diagnosed with brain tumors. Most are treated with surgery, radiation and high doses of chemotherapy, which can have debilitating side effects. Now, a new way of thinking targets the tumor and leaves these toxic side effects behind.
Sydnie Reedy loves a good joke. Even when there’s not much to laugh about.
“I was diagnosed in 2011 with Medulloblastoma. I was 13,” she said.
She’s 20 now. She’s battled brain tumors for a third of her life. She’s fighting her fifth recurrence with a treatment pioneered by Dr. David Sandberg.
“We’re trying something new because I think the current treatments that are available for children with these brain tumors are entirely inadequate,” explained David I. Sandberg, MD, FAANS, FACS, FAAP, Professor and Director, Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery and Dr. Marnie Rose Professorship in Pediatric Neurosurgery, McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Mischer Neuroscience Institute/Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.
Standard chemo must cross the well-guarded blood-brain barrier to reach brain tumors. It takes high doses, which kill healthy cells too. To get chemo where it’s needed with fewer side effects, Sandberg is injecting it into the brain’s fourth ventricle.
Dr. Sandberg commented, “This is a new approach and we’re at the beginning of a journey.”
Sydnie was treated in 2014 and went into remission. But her tumor returned, and now she’s getting a higher dose.
“I’m looking for treatments that help them have a better quality of life,” said Dr. Sandberg.
Sydnie says her family and faith have helped her through her darkest moments. She’s already learned what many people never will.
“We take for granted, the breath of air that we take in you know. Our parents, our family, the little things are the big things,” she commented.
And that means slipping in a good joke whenever she can.
With Sydnie’s latest round of treatment, there was no definitive change in her tumors, so Dr. Sandberg has scheduled her for yet another round of the same treatment. He cautions that this treatment is still under study and is not a home run for everyone, but it does offer promise for children like Sydnie who have failed all other treatments.