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Oct 10, 2019

How we are doing


It's hard to believe, but we are already in October, and before we know it, the holiday season will be here!  As temperatures cool, we are starting to take preliminary account of our results this year.  We are happy to report that in 2019, our program to help leukemia patients afford bone marrow donor searches has seen an increase in donations, with almost $75,000 spent to date to support 13 patients. 

We are proud of your trust in us and dedication to our cause!   Bone marrow transplants are the only chance for cure for many leukemia patients.  Your support makes it possible and literally makes life or death difference for the patients.  Thank you so much! 

Our latest support recipient is a 23-year old Violetta from a village in Rostov region.  After she graduated from college, Violetta moved to a city, Rostov-on-Don, and studied to become an accountant.  Only two years into her career, Violetta became ill - she started having persistent nosebleeds and  stomachaches, and became fatigued.  The tests showed Violetta had blood abnormalities and an enlarged spleen, and she was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia.  Although many patients like her are able to stay on oral medication for many years, Violetta developed complications and severe side effects to standard therapy.  In June she was moved to a third-line drug, but it was uncertain how long she would be able to tolerate the treatment.  For this reason, she was referred for bone marrow transplantation that could be curative in her case.  On October 1st Violetta underwent transplantation from an unrelated donor that was found in Germany.  She is now recovering and feeling relatively well overall. 

Thanks again for supporting Violetta and patients like her!  Wishing you a happy and bountiful fall season! 

Sep 17, 2019

Anastasia needs our help!


Anastasia's story is very similar to those of other kids like her whose families applied for help this year. It happens like this: a new medication becomes available in the US and Europe and gives hope to the patients who previously would have been denied further treatment.  However, for various reasons it takes several years before the medication becomes approved and registered in the former Soviet Union countries.  Meanwhile, doctors and patient communities begin looking for ways to access better treatments.  Often families with sick kids travel to other countries where the medicine is already available and doctors have experience treating patients with it. 

Anastasia is one of those kids.  She is 10 years old and loves animals - horses, in particular.  She has been drawing them since she was little.  In January 2017 Anastasia was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Initial treatment took almost a year.  Anastasia was treated in a regional cancer hospital in Vladivostok, in Russia’s Far East.  Unfortunately, just two weeks after returning home she started having pains in her legs – it turned out to be a symptom of disease recurrence.  Anastasia’s family flew her across Russia to Moscow.  There, in May 2018, she underwent a risky, but often effective procedure: bone marrow transplant from an unrelated donor.  Unfortunately, in just 90 days Anastasia had another relapse.   She then proceeded to have CAR-T cell therapy that worked for 160 days, but then yet again Anastasia relapsed.  At that point she exhausted all treatment options available in Russia. 

Anastasia’s parents heard about new drugs recently approved for leukemia.  They brought her to Seoul, South Korea for evaluation and a second opinion.  The doctors there recommended therapy with inotuzumab, a new medication that can work even in heavily pre-treated patients.  They are hoping to give Anastasia one last chance to beat leukemia.  The treatment with this new drug is very expensive, and Anastasia’s family is raising funds to afford therapy.

Thank you for your support for this project and patients like Anastasia!  Your help allows them to access new medications without delay and improve their chances to beat cancer.  We truly appreciate your kindness!

Sep 4, 2019

Stas's Story

For many of us, summer break is over and we are back from our vacations to attend school or go to work.  Some may already be planning their next holiday.  Travel is not only fun, but it's genuinely good for our health and wellbeing.  We hope that all of our supporters had a great time this summer!    

Cancer patients, however, travel for different reasons.  Most often it's to access medical expertise and level of care unavailable close to home.  Sometimes, it's the doctors themselves who tell the patients to try their luck elsewhere, where the resources and possibilities are not as limited.  Ability to accept patients at a short notice is another factor, or having no visa requirements that delay travel plans.  A lot of times, it's the word of mouth, a recommendation from a friend or another patient.  In the former Soviet Union, most patients tend to go to Israel, Germany or Turkey for treatment when no further treatment options exist at home.

Stas, a 14-year old from Ukraine, is one such patient.  In early 2017 he had surgery to remove a tumor.  Local doctors determined it to be benign and Stas had no further treatment.  In March 2019 Stas began having stomachaches and went to see doctors again.  He was referred for comprehensive evaluation, and the scans showed multiple lesions in his lymph nodes.  These were metastases from cancer that was previously misdiagnosed as benign tumor.  Two of the lesions were removed during biopsy, but another one was deemed unoperable.  The doctors had a hard time determining the type of cancer, and Stas’s family decided to take him abroad for further diagnostics and treatment. 

The family flew to Israel where Stas was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of rare solid tumor.  The doctors are giving Stas a good prognosis, but the treatment is costly.  Stas's ability to remain on treatment depends on the kindness of strangers.  He already had surgery that removed all visible metastases, but he still needs to stay in Israel and complete 5 cycles of chemotherapy and 30 radiation sessions, to be followed by maintenance chemotherapy for another year.  

Your donation will ensure that patients like Stas have access to quality cancer care abroad.  It is an unfortunate reality that there is a significant gap in patient outcomes in developed countries and the former Soviet Union.  Traveling abroad allows patients with rare cancers to bridge that gap and improve their chances to beat cancer. 

Thank you for your support!  

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