Skip to main content

'We need to tailor it to kids': family presses for childhood cancer research

Childhood cancer turns life upside down for more than 200 Alberta kids who get a cancer diagnoses each year, and family of a recently-diagnosed Calgary girl are pressing for more research funding.

“Paediatric cancer doesn't discriminate. It could be anybody and it's a shock to the system when you hear that your child has cancer,” said Claire Masikewich.

Her daughter, five-year-old Sloane Masikewich was just diagnosed with neuroblastoma in May.

Sloane has started cancer treatment but is still able to do the things she loves, like playing with her animal figurines and riding her bike, but in a few weeks she will have surgery to remove an adrenal gland, followed by intense chemotherapy.

"We know the next phase for her is going to be incredibly hard."

About 237 children in Alberta are diagnosed with cancer each year but up until recently the prognosis was grim.

"None of the children with cancer survived only a few years ago,” said Dr. Aru Narendran who is a paediatric oncology physician with University of Calgary.

Now 85 per cent or more children diagnosed with cancer survive.

Still, dozens of kids in Alberta die from cancer each year.

Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta helps fund Dr. Narendran’s research.


Dr. Narendran and his U of C team are working to change that.

"There is no reason why cancer in children cannot be cured completely," Narendran said. "That's what we need to work towards."

His team is one of the research groups working on vaccines for currently incurable cancers, including a rare type that causes brain tumours. It’s in its first phase of clinical trials in the United States. Health Canada is in the process of reviewing the experimental therapy and if approved, the Calgary team will be able to start clinical trials.

Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta helps fund Dr. Narendran’s research.

"Of all the cancer funding in Canada, only five per cent of cancer research funding goes to pediatric cancer research," said Deb Osiowy chief financial officer with Kids Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta

The group is fighting to change that because most current treatments are tailored to adults, and can cause stronger side effects in kids.

"Seventy per cent of survivors of childhood cancer they go on to have pretty significant side effects and limitations on their life going forward.”

"We were told quite early on that this is going to be causing fertility, heart, lung, liver, hearing issues," said Masikewich.

Sloane and her family are fighting to change that too by raising awareness about childhood cancer at her school and in the community.

“We need to tailor it to kids. We can't use a one size fits all approach when it comes to cancer.”

September is childhood cancer awareness month and there are several events you can take part in to help raise awareness and money.

Kid's Cancer Care Foundation of Alberta raises money for research but also provides programs for children in and out of the hospital and for their families too. Top Stories

Stay Connected