Australian research brings hope to cancer kids

Source: News

When Sydney woman Maria Rossi learned her baby girl had blood cancer, the only thing she wanted to hear was high percentage odds that little Mia would pull through.

“We kept asking, what are her chances? And you just want to hear that number,” she remembered on Tuesday.

“Any number that is higher gives you more hope.”

Now, thanks to an Australian-led medical trial published on Tuesday, more families will be presented with odds that give them belief.

As recently as the 1990s, as few as a third of children with high-risk Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) recovered from the illness.

But research initiated at the Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick and The Children’s Hospital at Westmead, and detailed in the journal Leukaemia on Tuesday, has boosted the survival rate for those children to 75 per cent.

Scientists at the Children’s Cancer Institute Australia (CCIA) developed a way to test for the slightest trace of diseased cells in the bone marrow of children with ALL – including among patients who appeared to be responding well to treatment – to identify possible relapses months or years in advance.

Children at a high risk of relapsing were then treated with an intensive chemotherapy protocol.

Glenn Marshall, director of the Kids Cancer Centre at Sydney Children’s Hospital Randwick, said 1000 children had been involved in the research in Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

“Approximately 30 to 40 children in those countries would not be alive today if we didn’t have our trial, because the cure rate for those high-risk patients compared to the 90s has doubled,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

Deputy CCIA director Murray Norris said doctors had previously relied on slides under a microscope to determine whether cancer was in remission.

“You’re lucky if you can pick up one leukaemia cell amongst 20 or 50 normal cells,” he said.

“What we developed was a molecular genetic test, essentially it was based on taking a DNA fingerprint of the child’s leukaemia.”

The Minimal Residual Disease testing could pick out the equivalent of one leukaemia cell from up to a million normal cells, he said.

Maria Rossi credits the research with saving her daughter’s life.

Today, Mia Yule needs to visit a hospital for check-ups only every four weeks.

The rest of the month, the bouncy six-year-old is busy going to school, playing soccer, and even doing kung-fu.

“I really hope Dr Marshall makes other kids better,” Mia told reporters.

Her mum said she felt “blessed”.

“We went through treatment with other families who weren’t so lucky,” she said.

“I think it was one in three of them who didn’t make it, so we feel very excited by the news today that they’re continuing to make progress to give every child the chance to live a life.”

Renowned Greek American artist Stephen Antonakos debuts new works at the Konrad Fischer Galerie Berlin



Stephen Antonakos’ new works in gold and marble is on display – for the first time ever – at the renowned Konrad Fischer Galerie Berlin in Germany.

The exhibit, which opened on March 8, is called Four Directions and will run until April 20.

A Greek American artist, Antonakos’ work has been exhibited internationally for five decades in over 250 group shows and 100 solo shows, including a major retrospective in Greece and the United States in 2007. More than 50 of his large scale public works have been installed in the U.S., Europe, and Japan.

A pioneer in the field of neon light, his sculptures can be found at museums in New York, Chicago, Seattle, Tacoma, Denver, Amherst and Atlanta.

Born in a mountain village in Laconia, Greece, Antonakos immigrated to the United States with his parents when he was just a baby. He grew up in New York and began painting and working with neon in the late 1950s.

His work is related to Minimalism in its intention to be seen as “real things in real space in the here and now”. He has a particular interest in bringing the architecture and the space of the site into the viewer’s experience

Since the early 1960s Antonakos’ geometric forms in neon have been exhibited in his Canvases, Panels, Walls, Rooms, and outdoor Public Installations. Throughout, the interaction of light and space has been central. A formalist, but not a didactic one, he calls his work “real things in real spaces”.

The Konrad Fischer Galerie Berlin has reconstructed a classic neon Wall from 1977. This work is titled Fragments of a Circle and it’s 3m by 5m and exemplifies how the work’s engagement with the proportions of the room is as crucial as the internal relations of its elements. This is visible also in the exhibition’s second and third Directions.

Begun in 2011, framed works of gold leaf on Mylar and Tyvek – whether cut or crumpled – may be seen as further rich explorations of reflected light within a determined space. No less than the two brand-new gold leaf Volumes, these radiant planes are not images, but objects.

Another, even newer material for Antonakos is the white marble of “Interlock 1”. Deeply incised with incomplete circles and squares that hold light and shadow, this work sits on the floor and leans on the wall, manifesting both the consistency of the artist’s concerns and their great visual and material variety.

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