New drug helps to relieve pain, prolongs life for kids with sick - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

New drug helps to relieve pain, prolongs life for kids with sickle cell

It's also painful and results in many hospital visits for 3-year-old Nyla and 6-year-old Blake Ballentine. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) It's also painful and results in many hospital visits for 3-year-old Nyla and 6-year-old Blake Ballentine. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
Now, there's hydroxyurea, a drug that's been around for decades to treat adults with sickle cell, now being used in a clinical trial on very young children with incredible results. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) Now, there's hydroxyurea, a drug that's been around for decades to treat adults with sickle cell, now being used in a clinical trial on very young children with incredible results. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - From extreme pain to extraordinary progress, sickle cell is a blood disorder that turns normal red blood cells into a sickle shape, making blood flow difficult.

It's also painful and results in many hospital visits for 3-year-old Nyla and 6-year-old Blake Ballentine.

"It can cripple them," said Angela Ballentine, their mother. "They can not walk if it's in their leg area. They can't walk on it."

Now, there's hydroxyurea, a drug that's been around for decades to treat adults with sickle cell, now being used in a clinical trial on very young children with incredible results.

"They have not had a crisis since they've been on this drug," said Ballentine. "We could be there every weekend. Or once a month or twice a month. Often. Sometimes it's a blood transfusion. Most of the time it's just fluids and antibiotics."

Dr. Winfred Wang, the head of Hematology at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, led the trial from Memphis. He said there's been about a 50 percent decrease in crisis with the new drug. Nearly 200 children, ages 9-to-18 months in 13 hospitals across the country took part. Twenty were St. Jude patients. Half were given hydroxyurea, and the other half were given a placebo.

"Although we don't know the full long term affects of hydroxyurea, we have not seen anything dangerous," he said. "We do know there are substantial long term benefits."

A long life is what every parent wants for their children, and Angela Ballentine knows hydroxyurea will be a life-long commitment for her kids.

"They have to take it every day, probably for the rest of their lives," she said. "But the alternative is being sick. So I'd rather for them to take the drug than to have ongoing pain. Absolutely it has changed our lives."

Researchers are seeking full approval of the drug from the Food and Drug Administration. Wang said there is increasing evidence hydroxyurea actually prolongs life in young patients.

Click here for details: http://www.stjude.org/dhmemphis.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved. 

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