Legacy of young cancer patient continues through research
Published Tuesday, October 23, 2012 10:13AM EDT
The legacy of a two-year-old Alberta boy is assisting researchers from around the globe study a rare type of brain cancer that claimed the toddler’s life.
Alexander Brown died in 2010 after a short battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer that doctors at Alberta Children’s Hospital had never seen before.
Parents Tara and Jonathan Brown made the decision to donate Alexander’s brain and the tumour to the University of Calgary so scientists could harvest live cells for their research.
Doctors say the donation has helped researchers both in Canada and around the world.
Dr. Jennifer Chan, a neuropathologist at the University of Calgary, managed to replicate the cells from the tumour for further study in her lab, as well as labs around the globe.
“This cell line is something that didn't exist before anywhere so it empowers a whole group of researchers,” Chan told CTV Calgary. “When word got out … that there was a cell line available, we had calls from researchers in Europe, in the States, across Canada to send and share our material with them. So it’s not just about my lab, it’s about empowering lots of researchers to work on this problem.”
Chan said Alexander’s tumour is the first ETANTR tumour (Embryonal Tumor with Abundant Neuropil and True Rosettes) in history to be grown in a lab.
His parents said it’s comforting to know that Alexander is having a positive impact on cancer research – even after his death.
Once learning of how rare Alexander’s cancer was, they said making the decision to donate the brain was an easy one.
“It's hard to imagine, but we're really glad we did,” said Jonathan Brown. “It’s really making a difference.”
The Browns have also launched a charity in Alexander’s honour, Alexander’s Quest, which brings awareness to childhood cancers.
With a report from CTV Calgary