Trust. Confidence. Accessibility.
These are the words that come to mind when Scott and Gail Wilkes reflect on their experience at Akron Children’s Hospital after their daughter, Shannon, was diagnosed with a rare type of bone cancer called metastatic osteosarcoma.
Today, they’re helping to instill those same feelings in others – by expanding treatment and research options at our Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders.
Care close to home
When Shannon was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 19, her parents immediately began researching the best treatment available. After consulting with experts at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital in Houston, Texas, and exploring multiple treatment options, they decided to get treatment right in their hometown at Akron Children’s Hospital.
“For us, Akron Children’s was by far the best place to provide chemotherapy and treat its side effects,” said Scott. “There was an experience and comfort level the team brought to the table.”
“It was close to our house and we really bonded with the doctors, nurses and staff,” Gail added. “We had this gem in our backyard and didn’t realize it.”
Expanding treatment options
When Shannon wasn’t responding to standard cancer treatments, her oncologists recommended targeted therapy to treat her aggressive form of bone cancer.
Targeted therapy is a process used to identify and attack cancer cells, while limiting the damage to normal cells. But to identify the cancer’s specific proteins and genes, tissue samples must be analyzed – a capability Akron Children’s didn’t offer on-site at the time.
When Shannon’s five-year battle with cancer ended in 2013, the Wilkes’ started exploring ways to give back.
“We felt overwhelmingly grateful for the care we had received at Akron Children’s,” said Gail. “And we wanted others to have access to the same treatment Shannon had.”
In 2014, the family helped Akron Children’s secure the resources and staffing needed for on-site collection, storage and analysis of tissue samples – and the Shannon E. Wilkes Targeted Therapy Program was born.
Now, as they near a decade of providing financial support through the Shannon E. Wilkes Pediatric Oncology Tissue Banking and Targeted Therapy Fund, the family recently made a new donation to purchase a flow cytometer to aid in cancer research. Flow cytometers use laser technology to help detect and measure the physical and chemical characteristics of cells. Researchers will use this equipment to study cancer cells and in clinical trials.
“Through their continued generosity, Scott and Gail have helped expand treatment options for childhood cancer patients,” said Jeffrey Hord, MD, director of the division of hematology-oncology, pediatric hematologist-oncologist and chairholder of the LOPen Charities and Mawaka Family Chair in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology. “With the addition of our new flow cytometer system, we’ll have even more treatment and research options to serve families across our region – and beyond.”
To learn how you can help Akron Children’s advance the care and treatment of childhood cancers, contact Megan Hopper, senior director, principal giving, at 330-543-5768 or firstname.lastname@example.org.