Pediatric Cancer Research Increases the Odds of Saving Adam

I’ve always felt I had the potential to make a big impact on the world. Fresh out of graduate school, I joined GE Global Research in 2002 because GE has the values, size, and people to make a difference. As the manager of our High Energy Physics lab, I have the honor of being at the forefront of the next generation of innovation. One of our core areas of research is x-ray generation technology for medical imaging. Every day, my team at GE Global Research is striving to put the best tools into the hands of the medical community.

While I intuitively knew how important these tools are, it became crystal clear on October 11, 2012, when my 4-year-old son, Adam, was diagnosed with stage IV, high risk, Neuroblastoma. It brought everything my team and I had done for the past 10 years into focus, as I was able to see how important research is to not only the medical community, but also to individuals and families.

I knew that children can have cancer, but I always thought it was extremely rare. I had no idea that there was a huge community of pediatric cancer patients across the globe, and even a sizable group right in our area. Now that I know how it feels to have a child whose life depends on these medical techniques, I am even more passionate about gaining ground on research that can make life easier, and save lives.

 

Meet Adam Frontera
Meet Adam Frontera, age 5

I had never even heard of Neuroblastoma before Adam’s diagnosis. In neuroblastoma, immature nerve cells grow into cancer cells, instead of a part of a normal nervous system. It is a rare, solid tumor pediatric cancer. Adam had a grapefruit sized tumor above his adrenal gland, and more sites spread throughout his skeletal system.

Neuroblastoma has terrible survival statistics. Today, with the most advanced medical research, the 5-year survival rate for stage IV neuroblastoma is 60%. Neuroblastoma often relapses, and when it does, the survival rate is extremely low. These percentages are not even close to where they need to be, especially when you are talking about your own child’s life.

Every day, I live in fear. Fear that my son’s cancer will relapse and there will be nothing we can do to help him. Fear that more children will have to endure the harsh treatments and after effects of the treatments that are in use today. Fear that nothing available will work.

That said, for the past 16 months, Adam has received an amazing array of therapy including Chemotherapy, Stem Cell Transplant, Monoclonal Antibody Treatment, Targeted Radioisotope Therapy, Radiation Therapy, and Surgery. Each of these treatments is built on hours of thought, discovery, successes, failures, brave kids, and incredibly inventive, resilient researchers. These treatments have drastically improved the odds from 30 years ago when there were hardly any neuroblastoma survivors.

 

Making a statement during National Childhood Cancer Awareness month
Making a statement during National Childhood Cancer Awareness month

 

Seeing this in action not only makes me proud to be doing research but makes me realize the importance of being able to keep this research going strong. Hopefully the 60% survival rate can one day be at 100%.

My friends and mentors at GE Global Research and GE Healthcare developed, installed and maintain the imaging machines, agents and infrastructure on which Adam and many of the other children fighting cancer are monitored and treated. My team’s efforts at GE Global Research & GE Healthcare will give tomorrow’s doctors better information to improve survival rates without causing harmful long term side effects.

This year to help raise money for researchers to make medical breakthroughs, I am participating in a St. Baldrick’s event in Albany, NY on Sunday, March 16. My team members and I will be shaving our heads to raise money for pediatric cancer research. St. Baldrick’s is an amazing organization that directly funds research to find cures for pediatric cancer. In addition to the statement of shaving my head, my family has made a financial contribution to our team, which GE is generously matching through the GE matching gifts program. Look for St. Baldrick’s Foundation in California to make your donation and match.

Every day I have hope. Hope that researchers will come up with new therapies that will save children afflicted by cancer. Hope that they’ll make progress toward treatments that will not leave children with hearing loss, secondary cancers, and many other life long side effects.

 

Adam enjoying one of his favorite activities during a break from antibody therapy
Adam enjoying one of his favorite activities during a break from antibody therapy

 

Hope that with the right funds and the right tools, the next breakthrough will result in a difference, not just for Adam, but for others who are afflicted with cancer at much too young an age.

If you feel inspired to be a part of our upcoming St. Baldrick’s event, please consider joining or supporting my team.

To see more about Adam’s journey check out our Facebook page, Aces for Adam.

 

Reference to Cancer Research Facts in Article
Yu, Alice L., et al. “Anti-GD2 antibody with GM-CSF, interleukin-2, and isotretinoin for neuroblastoma.” New England Journal of Medicine 363.14 (2010): 1324-1334.


2 Comments

  1. coach Joe

    Mark, this is an incredible story and I will keep Adam and your family in my prayers.

    On a more positive note I am proud to say I have known you. Your work is inspirational!

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