Calgary Family Battles Pediatric Cancer, Calls for Increased Research Funding

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Every year, life is overturned for over two hundred children in Alberta who receive a devastating cancer diagnosis. Amongst these children is five-year-old Sloane Masikewich of Calgary, whose family now joins countless others in their pressing call for increased research funding.

“Paediatric cancer knows no bias or prejudice. When the unthinkable happens and one is confronted with the news that their child has cancer, it’s nothing short of a shattering blow,” says Claire Masikewich, the mother of Sloane who was recently diagnosed with neuroblastoma.

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Even amidst the commencement of cancer treatment, Sloane emerges resilient, her spirit unyielding as she continues to revel in the joys of her childhood. Whether it’s her fondness for animal figurines or her enthusiasm for bike rides, Sloane’s zest for life remains unsullied. However, a looming surgery to remove an adrenal gland, followed by intense chemotherapy threatens to challenge her strength in the coming weeks.

Each year, around 237 children in Alberta are diagnosed with cancer, and up until a recent past, the prognosis was heartbreakingly bleak. “A few years back, survival rates were almost nonexistent,” says Dr. Aru Narendran, a paediatric oncology physician at the University of Calgary. The tide, however, is ever so slowly turning, with at least 85 percent of children now surviving their cancer diagnoses.

Despite these incremental victories, the fight is far from over, as dozens of young lives in Alberta continue to be extinguished due to this disease each year. Institutions like Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta are instrumental in powering research efforts to overturn these grim statistics.

Dr. Narendran and his team at the University of Calgary are at the forefront of this battle, laboring relentlessly towards one goal: the complete eradication of cancer in children. Notably, their team is amongst several research groups developing innovative vaccines for cancers currently considered incurable, including a rare form that engenders brain tumours. The experimental therapy is undergoing its first phase of clinical trials in the U.S. and awaits Health Canada’s approval for the initiation of clinical trials in Calgary.

Despite this commendable advancement, hurdles persist in the lack of adequate funding for pediatric cancer research. “Pediatric cancer research receives a meager five percent of all cancer funding in Canada,” remarks Deb Osiowy, chief financial officer with Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta.

This paucity of specific research inadvertently impacts the nature of treatments available, most of which are tailored for adults. Consequently, children not only grapple with the disease but also the significant side effects that these less-than-optimal treatments inflict.

Sloane and her family continue their personal crusade against this adversity with an indomitable spirit, steadfast in raising awareness in their community. As September approaches, marking the advent of childhood cancer awareness month, opportunity breeds to participate in numerous events to aid this cause. The collective goal remains unchanged – to foster research tailored precisely to the fight against childhood cancer. With the Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta not only raising funds for research but also creating supportive programs for affected families, the battle cries resonate louder – until every child is spared the anguish of this life-altering disease.