A look ahead: Medical breakthrough discovered at St. Jude could - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Medical breakthrough at St. Jude could change lives for sickle cell patients

Posted: Updated:
Three-year-old Nyla and 6-year-old Blake, have sickle cell. Three-year-old Nyla and 6-year-old Blake, have sickle cell.
"It can cripple [my children]. They can not walk if it's in their leg area. They can't walk on it," said mother Angela Ballentine. "It can cripple [my children]. They can not walk if it's in their leg area. They can't walk on it," said mother Angela Ballentine.
Dr. Winfred Wang, the head of Hematology at St. Jude led the drug trial from Memphis. Dr. Winfred Wang, the head of Hematology at St. Jude led the drug trial from Memphis.
From ages nine to 18 months, 193 children in 13 hositals took part; 20 were St. Jude patients. Doctors gave half of the patients Hydroxyurea while the other half took a placebo. From ages nine to 18 months, 193 children in 13 hositals took part; 20 were St. Jude patients. Doctors gave half of the patients Hydroxyurea while the other half took a placebo.

(WMC-TV) - Doctors at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital discovered a medical breakthrough in a decades-old drug used to treat adults with sickle cell anemia. In a clinical trial, the drug Hydroxyurea shows incredible results in young children also suffering the disease.

"It can cripple [my children]. They cannot walk if it's in their leg area. They can't walk on it," said mother Angela Ballentine. "They have not had a crisis since they've been on this drug."

Her children, 3-year-old Nyla and 6-year-old Blake, have sickle cell; the blood disorder turns normal red blood cells into a sickle shape making blood flow difficult. It affects one in every 500 African-Americans.

The extreme pain forces the family into many hospital visits.

"We could be there every weekend or once a month or twice a month. Often," said Angela. "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 led the drug trial from Memphis.

From ages nine to 18 months, 193 children in 13 hospitals took part; 20 were St. Jude patients. Doctors gave half of the patients Hydroxyurea while the other half took a placebo.

"About a 50 percent decrease in crisis," said Dr. Wang."Although we don't know the full long-term affects of hydroxyurea, we have not seen anything dangerous. We do know there are substantial long-term benefits."

According to Wang, increasing evidence proves Hydroxyurea prolongs life in young patients. Angela knows the drug will be a life-long commitment for her kids.

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

"Absolutely, it has changed our lives."

The trial could change lives around the world. Currently, researchers seek full approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

For the latest information on sickle cell research at St. Jude, click here.

Get the latest from Action News 5 anytime: iPhone | iPad | Android | SMS Alerts | Email Alerts | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Copyright 2014 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Teen killed in crash after prom

    Teen killed in crash after prom

    Friday, April 18 2014 10:46 PM EDT2014-04-19 02:46:47 GMT
    (WMC-TV) - A young man's life was taken too soon. It was supposed to be a high school memory of a lifetime for Andrew Archer, but prom night turned into a tragic night for his family and friends. His promMore >>
    It was supposed to be a high school memory of a lifetime for Andrew Archer, but prom night turned into a tragic night for his family and friends.More >>
  • Woman featured on News Channel 11's Most Wanted list captured

    Woman featured on News Channel 11's Most Wanted list captured

    Tuesday, March 4 2014 12:51 PM EST2014-03-04 17:51:53 GMT
    Rebecca SpearsRebecca Spears
    A woman wanted for a failure to appear in court charge, was captured Monday.Rebecca Spears was listed as wanted by authorities for failing to appear in court on charges of driving on a suspended license and not having insurance.More >>
    A woman wanted for a failure to appear in court charge, was captured Monday.Rebecca Spears was listed as wanted by authorities for failing to appear in court on charges of driving on a suspended license and not having insurance.More >>
  • 7-year-old girl writes book after mother's death

    7-year-old girl writes book after mother's death

    Friday, April 18 2014 8:31 AM EDT2014-04-18 12:31:56 GMT
    (WMC-TV) - Most 7-year-old girls are playing dress up and reading books, but one Mid-South girl is the exception—not just reading but writing books. Shiloh Sanders talked about the inspiration behind herMore >>
    Most 7-year-old girls are playing dress up and reading books, but one Mid-South girl is the exception—not just reading but writing books.More >>
Powered by WorldNow