Local News

Cary Family Working To Find Cure For Rare Childhood Cancer

Posted June 20, 2002

— Researchers have come a long way in treating some cancers, but for children with

neuroblastoma

, the odds are not so good.

A Cary family who lost a child to the disease has been inspired to help others.

The Haggars are a happy, close family, but in their hearts, someone will always be missing.

Andrew Haggar had just turned 3 when his legs began to hurt. He was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a devastating disease that effects the neural tissue along the spinal cord.

Neuroblastoma is a rare childhood cancer.

"And those children only have a survival [rate] of 30 to 40 percent," said Dr. Timothy Driscoll, a pediatric oncologist at Duke.

He added that survival rate is only over a three-year period.

Andrew began an agressive course of chemotherapy. He was also the first child at Duke to try an experimental treatment of internal radiation.

"He had to be in a lead-lined room for a couple of days where his whole body was radioactive," said Peter Haggar, Andrews's father.

After the radiation treatments, Andrew had a bone marrow transplant and went into remission. The family had a few good months together before Andrew's relapse. Doctors said relapses are common with neuroblastoma.

"It's not that we were really surprised when he relapsed. It still was crushing," said Tara Haggar, Andrews's mother.

"We were pretty much out of options at that point," Peter said.

Andrew died last December. Despite everything, the Haggars are still fighting for a cure. They have held several fundraisers, raising more than $20,000 for neuroblastoma research at Duke.

Driscoll said Andrew did a lot to help others in a short amount of time.

"He tried to improve the treatment of neuroblastoma, not just for himself, but for other children in the future," he said.

The Haggars find comfort in that. They said until there is a cure, they will continue to raise money for research in memory of Andrew.

Driscoll said the new treatments his team is working on are promising, but they still have a way to go.

Duke is one of only a few referral centers in the country that treat children with neuroblastoma.

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