Transplant patient Cora Tucker
Transplant patient Cora Tucker.

Cora Tucker was a happy 2-year-old when her pediatrician noticed an issue at a routine check up. A biopsy later that day revealed the cause – neuroblastoma, a cancer of immature nerve cells that most often occurs in infants and young children. Though Cora had not been showing any symptoms, the cancer had spread to her bone marrow – she was already at stage 4.

Cora’s transplant doctor was Andrew Gilman, MD, director of the pediatric blood and marrow transplantation program at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Levine Children's Hospital, who has been a major contributor to the development of a new therapy to help fight neuroblastoma.

“We have seen improvements in survival for children with neuroblastoma in a randomized clinical trial who were given this therapy,” Dr. Gilman said. Recently approved by the FDA, the drug will soon be available for children with neuroblastoma outside the context of a clinical trial.

Under the direction of Dr. Gilman, Levine Children’s Hospital enrolled several patients, including Cora Tucker, in the trial. Cora’s mother, Candice Tucker, said when she and her husband were offered the opportunity to be part of the trial, they immediately accepted because they wanted to offer the best chance of success for their young daughter.

Their choice paid off – Cora is now a healthy kindergartener who loves soccer and gymnastics.

“I knew things were going to get better shortly after Cora had surgery to remove her tumor,” said Candice. “Dr. Gilman sat me down, looked me in the eyes, and said ‘Cora is a hopeful case.’ When a doctor says that to you, it means the world.”

Candice said, as a parent, hearing stories of other children who were cancer survivors gave her the strength to keep going. “We feel great that this therapy will now be offered to other families and Cora is living proof that sticking with the regimen can work,” said Candice. “I want our story to give other families hope.”

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