A Young Girl’s Cells Live on After Childhood Cancer

Zaida was 3-years-old attending her normal yearly check-up with expectation that all was well, yet they quickly learned six days later of her terrifying cancer diagnosis, reports Daily Camera. Little did Zaida and her family know the next ten years would be full of endless rounds of chemo and surgeries.

For Zaida, it all started with a seemingly bloated belly, which was a swollen belly and a common symptom among children with cancer. Other symptoms that might be give aways, but also are common in children for other reasons, include coughing, bruising and bleeding. As soon as the diagnosis happened doctors performed surgery to remove the tumors, and that was a huge challenge in itself as the first surgeon could not get it all. It was described as “moss”; it was everywhere.

The next attempt was much more invasive and aggressive, as the surgeons had to undergo an experimental procedure. This process included taking all her organs and bathing them in chemotherapy medication at a specific temperature and time. They contorted her body in every which way. so that every part of the tumor had been touched. Zaida was the first child to undergo this procedure and it lasted 13 hours. She would have to do this several more times in her life.

This bought them time, about two years. The fight continued even though the doctors couldn’t identify what exactly the cancer was. Zaida was a warrior. Her family fought with her as well, although it took a toll.

When the world was looking grim for Zaida, her parents made last minute efforts to save their girl, despite seeing a possible end of her life. Experimental drugs were out there, just not having been tested on children, so it was a matter of time whether they would receive approval from the FDA to do so. Yet, there was no time left and it had to be done.

Zaida took a drug called ipatasertib developed by Boulder’s Array. While it hadn’t been tested on a child before, it showed promising results for other adult patients with prostate and breast cancer. It was Zaida’s turn and it worked– for a while.

While Zaida improved at first, she ultimately died at age 12, after a nine year battle. Although losing a child so young is always tragic, all of the care, treatments, and medical support actually allowed Zaida to live a much longer life than many others who face childhood cancer.

Her cells remain in a lab, where researchers hope to use her cells to conduct studies and possibly save other children going through the same thing she did. An initial paper on her will be published soon, and doctors hope to use these cells to answer the lingering questions about where the cancer came from, why it reemerged after treatment, and how to fight it better in patients to come.

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