UPMC Guides Colombian Hospital in Treating First Pediatric Cancer Patients

By: Wendy Zellner

UPMC Guides Colombian Hospital in Treating First Pediatric Cancer PatientsThe life-changing medical protocols and practices of UPMC are now saving lives in Colombia.

The recently opened Cancer Institute at the Hospital Internacional de Colombia (HIC), in the town of Piedecuesta, has treated its first young patients as part of a long partnership between UPMC and Fundación Cardiovascular de Colombia (FCV). The goal – to provide world-class cancer care close to home for children and adults who previously traveled hundreds of miles for such treatments.

Two-year-old Carlos, or “Carlitos” to hospital staff, was transferred to the hospital in late November because of fever and pain related to acute myeloid leukemia, the first of such patients at the HIC. Meanwhile, 4-year-old Jader was transferred to the HIC with fever, vomiting and severe headaches before he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor in his central nervous system.

Both boys have benefited from advances in technology, training and treatment protocols, or “clinical pathways,” that UPMC has brought to Colombia. Carlitos has been treated with chemotherapy and benefited from a team-based approach to managing the complications of his disease.  In addition to surgery, Jader received chemotherapy and radiotherapy, using one of South America’s first Varian TrueBeam STx linear accelerators. UPMC helped to commission the machine and provide training so that patients could receive high-dose radiation treatments that minimize side effects while targeting the most challenging tumors.

Carlitos and Jader “are strong and have responded very well to the procedures,” said Dr. Diana Valencia Libreros , a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at the HIC Cancer Institute.

The prognosis for children with cancer in low- and middle-income countries is discouraging because of late diagnoses, ineffective treatments and hospital deficiencies, according to the World Health Organization.

“Our partnership with the HIC is an important step in improving outcomes for children and adults in Colombia, and a model for what can happen in other parts of the world,” said Dr. Dwight Heron, director of radiation services at UPMC CancerCenter.