‘Like Bella Grant’ Helps Researchers Find a Cure for Pediatric Cancer

The Live Like Bella Childhood Cancer Foundation was created for Bella Rodriguez-Torres. The Miami born girl had stage four of a rare childhood cancer which took her life at the young age of 10. You can read more about this story here.

After her death, her parents created the foundation in her honor, which has made huge waves in the search for a cure for pediatric cancer research. The foundation has funded 17 research trials and has helped families in over 45 states and a whopping 13 countries.
One of the more recent contributions the foundation has had is assisting a College of Medicine researcher who is trying to find effective treatment for neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF-2). This is a rare disease that produces tumors in the brain, spine and nerves. NF-2 only affects one in every 33,000 people and the tumors normally arise in childhood.
Fernandez-Valle is the leading researcher and her team is very close to finding a treatment for NF-2; she states how inspiring Bella’s life is and how inspiring her parents are for keeping the memory of their daughter alive by creating the foundation. Her research team has been given a $200,000 grant by the Live like Bella Childhood Cancer Foundation and Fernandez-Valle believes the grant will help make the cure within reach.

A cure is gravely in need because there are currently very few treatments for NF-2 and they are not very effective. For example, surgery can be used to remove the tumors created by NF-2; however, the tumors can be in very vulnerable places in the body so they can be dangerous to remove. For example, tumors in NF-2 patients often grow on nerves that affect balance and hearing so removing these tumors can often causes loss of hearing and paralysis of the face.

Radiation therapy is another possible treatment but sometimes can make the condition worse. If the therapy does not kill the cancer cells, the cells can aggressively mutate and grow even more.
Fernandez-Valle and her team are using the grant to see if any FDA approved drugs can reduce tumors in patients since creating a completely new drug to treat the disease could take decades.

The ultimate goal, Fernandez-Valle says, is to have a one-dose drug that can offer long-term management of the tumors and allow people with Neurofibromatosis type 2 to live a normal life.

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