Quality of Life Research
While helping young people fight cancer, our doctors think about how therapy today affects growing bodies in the future. At Seattle Children’s, treatment plans are based on years of experience and the newest research on what works best – and most safely – for children.
Our doctors are leading research to figure out how to prevent, detect and treat potentially significant health issues so children and young adults who have survived cancer can enjoy good quality of life.
Dr. Abby Rosenberg studies the total well-being of adolescents and young adults – not just their fight against cancer. She also oversees Seattle Children’s Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Program.
Rosenberg is especially interested in helping young people and their families stay strong in body and mind. With Dr. Joyce Yi-Frazier, research health psychologist at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, she leads the Palliative Care and Resilience Research Program. It is designed to buffer the impact of serious illness on patients and their parents. Participants learn these skills to improve their personal resilience:
- Stress management
- Goal setting and problem solving
- Turning a negative into a positive (cognitive restructuring)
- Finding meaning and benefit in the challenges of their illness
Rosenberg’s other research focuses on:
- How families communicate and make decisions when their child has cancer
- Factors that lessen families’ quality of life, with the aim of finding ways to improve their well-being
Cancer survivors may suffer later health problems, such as learning disabilities, heart disease, kidney disorders and additional cancers. Dr. Eric Chow is a nationally known expert in the late effects faced by survivors of childhood cancer.
His research aims to identify risk factors or early signs of aftereffects of treatment. Finding people at risk early could mean starting care to prevent or lessen these late effects. Chow is medical director of our Cancer Survivor Program.
Children who received a stem cell transplant as part of their cancer treatment are at higher risk of heart disease, weak bones and new cancers compared to other young people. Dr. Scott Baker studies why this happens and how we can lessen the risk. He is head of Seattle Children’s Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Program.
His studies look at:
- Risk factors for heart disease and whether early screening can prevent damage to vital organs
- How the amount of radiation affects the risk of later cancer in patients who received total body irradiation before their stem cell transplant
- Whether bone health in transplant survivors is improved by taking vitamin D, calcium and a medicine for osteoporosis (pamidronate)
- Creating a screening tool to find patients at highest risk of late effects so they can get preventive care or early treatment.
One way we help kids return to a normal life after cancer is avoiding graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). GVHD happens after stem cell transplant if the new cells attack the child’s body instead of rebuilding the immune system.
Dr. Marie Bleakley works on ways to control T cells from donors so they don’t attack the cells of transplant patients.
We study ways to avoid side effects from chemotherapy medicines used to fight cancer.
- Dr. Kasey Leger is working with Seattle Children’s cardiologists to study cancer patients for early signs of injury to the heart. Identifying children at risk for future heart problems could help doctors avoid damage by giving patients medicine to protect their heart or changing their chemotherapy to avoid harm.
- Dr. Todd Cooper is testing a new anticancer medicine designed to kill leukemia cells while limiting damage to the heart. This national COG study is open to young people with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) that has come back (relapsed).
- A national COG study led by Dr. Doug Hawkins identified a therapy that was as effective as standard treatment for rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS), but with fewer harmful side effects. RMS is the most common soft tissue cancer in children. Children who got the new treatment had significantly fewer side effects like life-threatening infections and the need for blood transfusions. Based on the results of this study, the new treatment has become the standard therapy for COG clinical trials for RMS. Read more.
- Our doctors are creating ways to boost the immune system with T-cell immunotherapy. The goal is to treat cancer better, in less time, with milder side effects. Our clinical trials (PLAT and ENCIT) test therapies developed at the Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research.