Seven-year-old Khushi isn’t one for complaining. But when her stomach began to hurt in May 2015, no one could determine the source of her discomfort. On Khushi’s fourth trip to the doctor, it became obvious — her pediatrician could feel a mass in Khushi’s abdomen. After undergoing an ultrasound at their local hospital, Khushi and her parents were on the way to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
At St. Jude, it was determined that Khushi had neuroblastoma, a type of solid tumor. Her treatment was intensive and included two initial rounds of chemotherapy, surgery to remove the primary tumor, a bone marrow transplant, radiation therapy, an infusion of her mother’s natural killer (NK) cells and five additional rounds of maintenance chemotherapy.
Despite the rigors of treatment, Khushi’s family was comforted. “When we arrived at St. Jude, we began to have hope,” Khushi’s dad, Chirag, said.
Immunotherapy plays a critical role in the treatment of St. Jude patients with neuroblastoma. While Khushi was initially receiving chemotherapy, she was also receiving antibody treatments, produced onsite at St. Jude. These laboratory-produced antibodies are designed to activate the immune response against tumor cells by recognizing and binding to an antigen found on the surface of most neuroblastoma cells.
Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since we opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude is working to drive the overall survival rate for childhood cancer to 90%, and we won’t stop until no child dies from cancer.
“We’re blessed to be here,” Khushi’s mom, Vaishali, said. “Everyone at St. Jude is doing their job really faithfully and efficiently for the families and kids.”
Chirag is part-owner of a family business, a gas station in his hometown. “A lot of my customers donate to St. Jude regularly,” he explained. “And they love knowing they’re helping Khushi.”
Khushi now returns to St. Jude for regular checkups. She’s in second grade and likes math and cartoons. But her favorite thing is playing with her baby sister, Tegasvee. “Khushi’s soft hearted and likes to make people happy,” said Vaishali. “She loves everyone.”