This story was recently reported in the Dallas, TX local news. It’s amazing how a small, simple fruit fly could have such a huge impact on rhabdomyosarcoma. For more information, click here.
Sydney Mayrell is like most 5 year old girls–she loves to be read to and she loves her cats–but Sydney is also rare–in the sense that she is 1 of only about 600 kids who are diagnosed each year in the United States with rhabdomyosarcoma–a childhood cancer found in soft tissue throughout the body.
Sydney’s mom Erin recalled the diagnosis.
“Just when you get the initial diagnosis of cancer, you just, I mean I think I just collapsed and I just couldn’t imagine my three year old having to go through everything,” Erin said.
Everything–like the radiation and chemotherapy that took Sydney’s hair–and surgery to remove a large tumor-and part of her leg muscle–so much that she required six months ofphysical therapy to be able to walk.
Survival rates can be as low as 20% but Dr. Rene Galindo–assistant professor and researcher at the Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern have discovered something big in something very small.
A fruit fly.
Dr. Galindo found that in fruit flies the cancerous tumor required another gene to thrive–and by correcting the activity of that one gene–stops the gene that causes cancer dead in its tracks.
“Not only are you stopping the progression of the disease you’re actually getting those cancer cells to stop being cancer and therefore no longer be a cancer type of problem for these kids,” Dr. Galindo said.
Researchers replicated the test on cultured human cells with the same results.
Dr. Galindo said the research may lead to target drugs that could reduce the spread of rhabdo which could lead to better survival rates and less invasive treatments.
“Today, even though we have really powerful chemotherapy, radiation and great surgeons, if a child has rhabdomyocarcoma that is spread around the body when it shows up the chances of us being able to cure that child is pretty small,” Dr. Skapek said.
The research and possible future treatments come too late for Sydney–but she is 9 months cancer free and her mom Erin is alive with the hope that other kids won’t go what her daughter went through.
“I pray to god that it will happen sooner rather than later,” Erin said.
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