Spit Saving Lives

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Doctors say there is still so much to learn and so many lives to save. Now, some are turning to saliva for answers. (KFSN)

It has taken years of research, breakthroughs and improvements to therapy, and as a result, about 80 percent of kids with cancer will survive the disease. Doctors say there is still so much to learn and so many lives to save. Now, some are turning to saliva for answers.

Cancer patient Olivia Rivera is doing this to help herself and countless other kids just like her.

Olivia told Ivanhoe, "I think that hopefully my spit helps."

Olivia is part of a saliva study at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital.

Dr. Gregory Hale, associate professor of oncology and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in Tampa, Florida told Ivanhoe one of the goals is "to actually get information from those samples that we don't even have available from bloodwork right now."

Dr. Hale said they're trying to determine the effectiveness of using saliva samples instead of blood. This could mean one less blood draw for patients like Olivia.

"I'd rather not have to have a needle in me," detailed Olivia.

Doctors are hoping to use the saliva samples to determine which drugs may be best for each patient. The samples can also detect if there's too much medicine in the patients' system. High levels can lead to long term side effects like heart problems.

"Certainly heart problems in pediatric population can be terrible because you're giving a significant side effect to a young person that can actually result in a lifelong disability," explained Dr. Hale.

Olivia's mother Katrina is glad doctors are doing everything they can to make this process less painful.

Katrina told Ivanhoe, "I think it's making a big difference for Olivia."

And possibly, a big difference in cancer research.

Researchers are collecting samples from 60 patients who are being treated with the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. The samples are also being stored so they can be used in future studies. One long-term goal is to develop a home kit for collection of saliva samples.

If you would like more information, please contact:

Gregory A. Hale, MD

Associate Professor of Oncology and Pediatrics

All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine

Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Institute


Related Topics:
healthhealth watchchildren's healthcancer
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