UPMC Guides Colombian Hospital in Treating First Pediatric Cancer Patients

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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-term partnership between UPMC and Fundación Cardiovascular de Colombia (FCV). The goal of this initiative is to provide world-class cancer care close to home for children and adults who previously traveled hundreds of miles for such treatment.

Two-year-old Carlos Daniel, 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 such patient at HIC. Around the same time, four-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, clinical pathways that UPMC has introduced to partners at HIC in 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 can 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,” reports Diana Valencia Libreros, MD, a pediatric hemato-oncologist at the HIC Cancer Institute. 

According to the World Health Organization, the prognosis for children with cancer in low- and middle-income countries is often discouraging because of late diagnoses, ineffective treatments, and hospital deficiencies. “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 Dwight Heron, MD, director of radiation services at UPMC CancerCenter.