Sparkle of Hope

Sparkle of Hope

Dr. Dima Hamideh

Issue #10: July 2018
Interview with Dr. Dima Hamideh

What are some of the CCCL medical achievements that you are most proud of since its founding 16 years ago?
Over the past 16 years, CCCL has strengthened the hope for cure of childhood cancer in the Middle East. Being one the largest and most comprehensive pediatric oncology program in Lebanon and the region, it provides the best possible care for its patients by an experienced, multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals who are dedicated to treating children and giving them the best chance of survival while still allowing them to experience as much of their childhood as possible.

Every child who comes through our doors has access to the newest and most advanced treatments available in the developed countries including the latest oncology regimens, stem cell transplantation, and personalized medicine tailored specifically for each patient whenever applicable. Exceeding 80%, our overall survival rates are comparable to those reported in leading cancer centers around the world.

CCCL is also the coordinating site for POEM, a large international collaborative group that is working to develop educational and clinical programs that will improve the cure rate of children with cancer in the Eastern and Mediterranean area.

What are the classic modalities of treatment for childhood cancer?
The classic modalities for treatment of childhood cancer include: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These modalities can be used separately or in combination depending on the tumor type and the extent of disease.

Is there any new modality of treatment that emerged lately for childhood cancer?
Some of the new therapeutic modalities introduced in the field of pediatric oncology includes:
1- Proton radiation therapy which is a highly accurate form of radiation therapy used to treat tumors near vital organs like the brain and spine thus minimizing the amount of radiation exposure to the healthy still-developing central nervous system.
2- Targeted therapies which are drugs that block the growth and spread of cancer by interfering with specific molecules that are involved in the growth, progression, and spread of cancer.
3- Immunotherapy which triggers the immune system to destroy cancer cells. It includes treatments that work in different ways and works better for some types of cancer than for others. Some examples include CAR T-Cell for relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), monoclonal antibody therapy for high-risk neuroblastoma and vaccine therapy for brain tumors, neuroblastoma and sarcoma.

Why would a patient need a Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT)?
A patient would need a stem cell transplant to:
1- Replace diseased nonfunctioning bone marrow with healthy functioning bone marrow for conditions such as leukemia, aplastic anemia, thalassemia and sickle cell anemia.
2- Restore the normal function of bone marrow after high doses of chemotherapy and/or radiation are given to treat a malignancy like neuroblastoma, lymphomas or infantile brain tumors.
3- Replace bone marrow with genetically healthy functioning bone marrow to prevent more damage from a genetic disease process such as mucopolysaccharidosis, osteopetrosis and adrenoleukodystrophy.

What is the future of cancer treatment?
Just a few years ago, microscopes were the primary tool used to diagnose cancer. Today, we still look at a microscope but increasingly we are looking at the genetic make-up and the cellular environment of the cancerous cells. Our understanding of the basic biology of the disease has evolved as has our view of cancers that were once considered as a single entity and are now known to be composed of a wide variety of molecular subgroups. As we continue into the 21st century, our increased understanding of the molecular and genetic basis of childhood cancer will facilitate further refinement of risk-adapted therapy. The ultimate goal is to cure childhood cancer with the best quality of long-term survivorship.

What makes the CCCL a center of Excellence and a Home of Hope?
By providing leadership, best practices, research, support and training for pediatric oncology in Lebanon and the region; CCCL is most certainly a center of excellence. Since its inauguration, it has treated and saved hundreds of young patients fighting for their life who otherwise would have been left with their parents to face a tragic fate. It is definitely a home of hope for patients and families irrespective of their social or economic status.

If you would like to write one sentence about the center, what would it be?
CCCL is more than just a center. It is a mission and an ultimate example of what can be achieved when people work together for the noble goal of curing every child with cancer.