June 06, 2011

New facility strengthens research and optimism at Children's Memorial

In June 2012, Children’s Memorial Hospital will make its move to a 23-story, state-of-the-art hospital that is currently nearing completion at 
225 E. Chicago Ave. The new building and a new name, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, will usher in a new chapter in a commitment to care and service that has endured for well over 100 years.

As Rory’s doctor sees it, this new setting and the advancement in tools, technology and human resources that go with it will absolutely improve the care and treatment the hospital provides to children battling a brain tumor. “It will be even more child-friendly than the space we are in now, and each patient having a private room will also greatly benefit the experience of families,” says Stewart Goldman, M.D., Medical Director of Neuro-oncology at Children’s Memorial. At the new hospital, patients will be able to personalize aspects of their room through artistic activities, and special places for family members will include a computer area where they can access information online.

While stressing the importance of the increased comfort level at the new hospital, Dr. Goldman is even more excited about its access to day-to-day research. After all, he is also director of the Center for Clinical Trials Research for the Children’s Memorial Research Center and associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. One reason for the hospital’s move downtown is to be closer to the Feinberg School of Medicine. “We’ll be more connected to clinical work being done, and the spacious patients rooms will be adjoined by an exam area with equipment such as a PET/CT scanner and an MRI machine,” says Dr. Goldman. “A sliding door will close it off so a child doesn’t have to think about it when it’s not being used, but this access will keep us from having to move patients around the campus. At the same time, with different specialists coming together in one area, it really is an opportunity to bring our cutting edge research right to the bedside.”

The sad truth, according to Dr. Goldman, is that the prognosis for a child diagnosed with brainstem glioma is not any different today than when Rory was diagnosed. “But the knowledge we have about the biology of the tumor is far more advanced,” he says. “We’re on the verge of seeing how we can apply that advanced knowledge in terms of treatment.” Clinical trials being conducted by Goldman and his colleagues at the Center for Clinical Trials Research—such as a pilot study of bevacizumab-based therapy in patients with newly diagnosed high-grade gliomas and diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas—explore how and why it develops in kids as well as how the tumor responds to different treatments. “More than a decade ago, our view of this type of tumor was like aiming a shotgun in the dark,” says Dr. Goldman. “Today it’s like having a rifle with a scope.”

For the new Children’s, collaboration within its own facilities and with other institutions will remain key to making research gains. “Collaboration is already a big part of what we do, but the new hospital puts us in a position to be even more involved and engaged with other researchers,” says Dr. Goldman.

Through the support of The Foundation, Children’s has been providing tumor tissue to researchers at The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University. “Yes, the institutions The Rory David Deutsch Foundation endows are working together,” says Dr. Goldman. “It’s these types of partnerships, and multiple efforts to better understand the biology of brainstem gliomas, that will lead us to new therapies.”

Dr. Goldman also credits parents who advocate for novel research as integral to the effort that enables researchers to investigate promising leads. “Though it’s difficult to think about in such terms, this includes determining what we can learn through autopsies of children,” he says. “Parents are hugely significant in influencing the direction of research and bringing attention to research that has something important to reveal.”

In a new facility that, according to Dr. Goldman, will help Children’s attract and retain the best clinicians and researchers, expectations are high for the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “We will build on the care we have always provided to children, and I’m confident our brain tumor center will be recognized as one of the finest in the nation,” he says. “That combination, I believe, means we will play an instrumental role in changing the prognosis for children who are diagnosed with a brainstem glioma.”

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