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Minnesota Medical Foundation

Delivering novel cancer therapies

Brenda Weigel, M.D. (Photo: Brady Willette)

With crucial philanthropic support from individuals and organizations such as Children’s Cancer Research Fund, research discoveries made at the University of Minnesota have helped increase survival rates for childhood cancer from 10 percent in 1959 to nearly 80 percent today. But Department of Pediatrics faculty and leaders realized that if the University wanted to continue as a leader in the fight against pediatric cancers, it needed better facilities.

That’s why nearly a third of the new University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital is dedicated to serving children who have cancer. The larger space will allow the University to expand the number and types of therapies it can offer, says pediatric oncologist Brenda Weigel, M.D. Neuroblastoma is a type of childhood cancer that develops from nerve tissue. In the last decade, doctors have made a major advance against these tumors using an IV delivered radioactive compound. A child who receives this therapy emits radiation and can only be treated if he or she stays in a lead-lined room. There were none of these rooms in the former University children’s hospital, but the new hospital has built one.

“There are only six places in United States that will be able to offer this therapy, and now we’re one of them,” Weigel says. “If the new hospital hadn’t built this room, we would have been a decade behind in this kind of care, which will be the therapy of choice for high-risk patients within five to 10 years.”

Weigel notes that another feature of the new hospital — a combined hematology/oncology and blood and marrow transplant clinic — will allow doctors to offer better cancer care and make treatments easier for patients and families.

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