Shannon Wilkes was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at the age of 19. When she wasn’t responding to standard treatment, her oncologists recommended targeted therapy to treat this aggressive form of bone cancer.
Targeted therapy is a newer form of treatment that more precisely identifies the cancer cells and attacks those cells, while sparing normal cells from damage.
“There are a lot of potential cancer treatments, but you can’t try them all and risk collateral damage to healthy cells,” said Scott, Shannon’s father. “Targeted therapy helps you know the enemy, so you know how to beat it.”
With targeted therapy, tissue samples from a tumor are analyzed to identify the cancer’s specific proteins and genes to determine the best treatment.
Because Akron Children’s didn’t have the capability to store, categorize and analyze tissue samples for targeted therapy, the Wilkes turned to a private company to complete gene sequencing of Shannon’s tumor.
They soon realized this was not an easy process.
“We spent a lot of time chasing down tissue samples and trying to figure out where they were in the process,” said Gail, Shannon’s mother. “It was really a hassle, especially when you’re already dealing with so many other stressors.”
Sadly, Shannon lost her battle with cancer in September 2013 at the age of 24.
Wanting to give back to Akron Children’s for the care their daughter received and to honor her memory, the Wilkes created the Shannon Wilkes Targeted Therapy Program Fund. Through this fund, Scott and Gail have made it possible for Akron Children’s to purchase the equipment and hire the staff for the on-site collection, storage and analysis of tissue samples for targeted therapy.
In doing so, they will make the process so much easier for other patients families, while also helping cancer researchers uncover new and better treatments.
“We felt this was a good way to help other families at Akron Children’s,” said Scott. “Having on-site storage of tissue samples will be a great help.”
Through the Wilkes generous donation, Shannon’s memory will continue to live on in every patient who’s able to beat childhood cancer.
To make a donation to the Shannon Wilkes Targeted Therapy Program Fund, contact Shelly Brown, senior major gifts officer at Akron Children’s Hospital, at 330-543-8900.
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’re telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.