A look ahead: Medical breakthrough discovered at St. Jude could - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

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

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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.
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(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.

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