By: Britanni Seynnaeve, MD
As a pediatric oncologist, I have responded to the question, “You take care of kids with cancer for a living- isn’t that difficult?” on countless occasions. I understand that this question comes from a good place. Articulating just the right answer to this question is difficult, as it is very important to ensure that my answer portrays what a privilege it is to have been given the opportunity to have this as my job.
Cancer is unfair, and cancer in a child is a devastating diagnosis for the child and family. In my daily job, I get to meet amazing children who have been diagnosed with cancer. While you might expect these children to feel bad for themselves, they do not. Their undying optimism and need to explore the world around them goes on, even if their days are spent the oncology clinic or hospital while receiving treatment. I see their parents re-structure they lives to be able to have their child receive the best care possible, all while keeping a sense of normalcy for the family. Every single time, every single patient that I meet- I am simply amazed by this. My job is truly a privilege.
While we have come a long way, able to give hope and chances at a cure to many more children now than 20 or 30 years ago, we still have a lot of room for improvement. Between 1975 and 2010, childhood cancer mortality decreased by more than 50% (PDQ). While this is a success, the kids I take care of inspire me to research and study to improve this statistic to 100%.
I have a special interest in rare pediatric cancers, knowing that special attention is important to make scientific advances in the diagnosis and treatment of these under recognized diseases. My research and interest is pediatric melanoma. No, melanoma is not an adult-only disease. Pediatric melanoma incidence, especially in the adolescent population, is increasing more rapidly than other cancers in the U.S. Metastatic melanoma that has spread to other parts of the body occurs in a subset of these patients, however at this time we are not able to predict who will suffer from worse disease and who will ultimately die of the disease. My research focuses on understanding genomic features associated with aggressive melanoma in children and adolescents, which can guide us in knowing how to tailor treatment at diagnosis and improve outcomes.
I am thankful for my patients who inspire me daily and push me to be better. However, without adequate funding, advancing our knowledge of pediatric melanoma through research would not be possible. CureRock allows me to have extra funds available to be able to participate in scientific conferences, or purchase necessary research supplies. Thank you to the contributors to CureRock for joining the fight to improve the field of pediatric cancer.