Health: Local Teen Beats Hard-To-Treat Cancer Thanks To Promising Experimental Drug

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Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3 and The CW Philly 57’s Emmy Award-win...
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By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — This year, more than 10,000 children will be diagnosed with pediatric cancer. Many will respond to standard treatment, but others, like Alex Scott, the little girl who started Alex’s Lemonade Stand to fight childhood cancer, won’t. Researchers are working on new ways to help those children, which the Alex Lemonade Stand Foundation helps to fund.

At 18, Lynnette Henshaw had everything going for her. She was a high school senior launching a modeling career. Then suddenly, she was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma.

“It was all just kind of a whirlwind, and I was in a lot of pain at first,” said Lynnette.

Standard chemotherapy failed, so Lynnette turned to an experimental targeted therapy called Crizotinib.

“Our hope was that at least in patients whose tumors depend on this gene for their growth, that we could see that the drug would allow the tumors to slow down or maybe even allow the tumors to shrink,” said Dr. Yael Mosse, an oncologist who led the Crizotinib trial at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Funding from the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation helped doctors at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia discover that an abnormal ALK gene often fuels Lynnette’s kind of cancer, as well as some hard to treat neuroblastomas. Knowing this, doctors were able to quickly test Crizotinib, which targets and turns off the abnormal gene, in these patients.

“The responses that we’re seeing in neuroblastoma are early and promising for children who historically have had no hope for any treatment that could be of benefit to them. Children with lymphoma addicted to this gene, their tumors respond pretty dramatically.”

Lynnette took the drug twice a day, with minimal side effects.

“After about I think a month, it shrunk like 70 percent,” said Lynnette.

Weeks later, she was in complete remission.

“I’m very thankful,” said Lynnette.

She’s now back to enjoying time with her friends and heading to pharmacy school.

“Looking forward to helping other kids,” said Lynnette.

She also underwent a bone marrow transplant to increase her odds of preventing her cancer from returning.

This experimental drug is already FDA approved for lung cancer.

For more info on the CHOP Crizotinib Pediatric Trial, visit: www.chop.edu/service/oncology/pediatric-cancer-research/crizotinib-targets-alk-driven-pediatric-cancers.html

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