ten years at levine children's hospital

Child Health | 11 months ago

Ten Years Closer to Beating Children’s Cancer

Ten years ago, the cancer program at Levine Children’s Hospital started small. See how we’ve transformed into one of the country’s biggest players in giving children and their families new hope. 
Thanks to advanced cancer treatment and one particularly adorable stuffed unicorn, four-year-old Wren Jansen began her recovery from acute lymphoblastic leukemia last year at Levine Children’s Hospital.

Wren wasn’t the only one to experience a magical transformation at LCH. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this month, the hospital has witnessed its Oncology, Hematology, and Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) program thrive like never before. 

Back in 2007, the cancer program was just a small clinic within the hospital, with four rooms and four doctors. Only about 60 new cancer patients were diagnosed in 2007, and the program didn’t have any BMT experts.

Today, the program has been named one of the country’s best by U.S. News & World Report. Eleven doctors diagnose more than 140 patients per year – and can provide 20 rooms for treatment, such as the radiation or chemotherapy infusions Wren received.

“Ten years ago, for patients who relapsed – those whose cancers return – we had nothing to offer them,” says Javier Oesterheld, MD, medical director of the cancer program at LCH. “Today, we can provide bone marrow transplants, new biological agents and advanced immunotherapies – and we do that every week.”

Beyond clinical excellence, the cancer program has helped improve the quality of life for patients and their families. Nurse navigators educate kids on their conditions while helping their parents get the resources they need. Nurses also bring an extra dose of fun and support through arts and crafts projects, or special gifts like the unicorn they gave Wren to cheer her up.

And four years ago, a pediatric psychologist was hired to guide the program’s support services. “Mental well-being is just as important as the medical care our patients receive,” says Dr. Oesterheld.

Clinical research has also flourished over the past decade. With its Developmental Therapeutics Program, the center can offer breakthrough therapies through Phase I and II studies for children and adolescents. In addition, as members of national research consortia such as Beat Childhood Cancer and the Sunshine Project, LCH is leading the way in finding new cures and bringing the latest therapies to Charlotte. 

Philanthropy offers new possibilties 

Pediatric cancer has been dramatically underfunded for many years. But LCH has been fortunate that private philanthropy has stepped up to fill the gaps, including funding many of their clinical trials.

Recently, a $2 million grant from the Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation created the first Jeff Gordon Children’s Foundation Endowed Chair – a position Dr. Oesterheld now holds. He’s planning to use the endowment to support a new pediatric cancer translational research laboratory opening in 2018 and to launch more clinical trials designed to enhance the treatment and diagnosis of cancer and blood disorders.

Looking ahead with hope

Even after 10 years at the helm, Dr. Oesterheld considers LCH’s cancer program to be one of the “best-kept secrets in the Southeast.”

But he knows that perception is changing day by day, as the number of patients and treatment options continues to grow.

“We just keep getting better and better – for our patients,” says Dr. Oesterheld. 

 

Javier Oesterheld, MD, medical director of the cancer program at LCH

 Javier Oesterheld, MD, medical director of the cancer program at LCH