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Celebrating Survivors
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Solutions for a Healthier Community: Ava Siciliano
Ava Siciliano

What happens when a clinical trial helps treat a child’s cancer?

Ava Siciliano’s mom, Janelle, first noticed a bump that would not go away under her daughter’s right eye. A course of antibiotics prescribed by her pediatrician did not help. The next step was surgery to remove the bump to determine what it was.

The diagnosis was chilling for 3-year-old Ava’s family. It was rhabdomyosarcoma, one of the most common types of soft tissue cancers in children. Cells from these tumors grow fast and can spread to other parts of the body.

On Halloween 2008, Ava began treatment under the care of David Dickens, MD a pediatric cancer specialist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

The Vision

Ava and other children with cancer have access to leading-edge treatments and groundbreaking therapies thanks to the hospital’s participation in the Children’s Oncology Group. This national network of children’s hospitals conducts clinical trials to evaluate newer, potentially better medicines. The goal is to ensure children get the best possible outcomes and highest possible chance for full recovery.

The Program

More than one third of children with cancer at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital participate in a clinical trial as part of their treatment. This level of participation is approximately ten times better than the national average. More than 80 clinical trials, studying new therapies for leukemia, lymphoma, bone tumors, brain tumors and sarcomas, are under way with the Grand Rapids Clinical Oncology Program.

The childhood cancer and blood disorder services at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital are among the largest in the country. These services along with its bone marrow transplant program offer comprehensive, multidisciplinary specialty care for infants, children and adolescents.

The ResultsHelen DeVos Children’s Hospital is one of just eight hospitals in the nation to receive the Trials Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) for its work to improve cancer care through clinical research. The award was given to acknowledge the large number of patients enrolled in the hospital’s clinical trials.

Now 4-year-old Ava, cancer free, spent this Halloween trick-or-treating.

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