Survivor doing what he can to help fight childhood cancer

Neuroblastoma accounts for 6 percent of all cancers in children, and is deadly in kids under 5.

Many times, the cancer spreads to the lymph nodes before parents even notice a lump.

Now, a 4-year-old boy who fought the disease is helping other kids fight back.

After two years of fighting neuroblastoma, Cashel couldn’t get enough of everything a playground had to offer.

“He had chemo. He had stem cell transplant which is high-dose chemo, too. They rescue it with their own stem cells,” Cashel’s mother, Alita Conoley-Wurzbach, said.

Cashel also had 12 rounds of radiation and immunotherapy. The cancer was first discovered as a lump on his neck, but the primary tumor was a grapefruit-sized one on his stomach.

“He had his primary tumor removed. That was a 14-hour surgery here at Texas Children’s,” Alita said.

During the trip, Cashel donated his own blood cells to boost the research.

Andras Heczey, MD, a pediatric oncologist at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine, is looking at genetically engineering natural killer T-cells which help fight neuroblastoma.

“What if we genetically engineer T-cells to specifically attack the tumor cells, as well?” Heczey said.

The clinical trial is evaluating a therapy called CMD-501, in which the patient’s natural killer T-cells are genetically modified in the lab, to better attach to tumors. But for now, Cashel and his mom are feeling good.

“Empowerment, because there is so little control you have over as a parent with a sick child,” Alita said.

This is an approved research study that uses natural killer T-cells to fight neuroblastoma. Texas Children’s Hospital is still recruiting participants.

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