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13:46 PM

CBS News: Saving Coral Reefs Could Save Lives

At Cook Children's Hematology and Oncology Center in Fort Worth, we work every day to bring more innovative research, groundbreaking medical treatments and trailblazing clinical trials to children with cancer and blood disorders -- so that one day, our wish to erase kid cancer and blood disorders will come true. Learn more about our team and specialty programs.

CBS News featured Audrey Lindsay and her mother Kimberly Lindsay. CBS News Correspondent Tom Hanson covers Audrey’s journey with cancer and how her chemotherapy medicine from coral reef ecosystems is saving her life. Watch the story here.

In January, Audrey was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). CBS News spoke with Holly Pacenta M.D., Cook Children’s pediatric oncologist, about Cytarabine, the “backbone” medicine of Audrey’s chemotherapy. “She couldn’t be cured without this medicine” says Dr. Pacenta.

Cytarabine prevents cancer cells from replicating and comes from the sea sponge within coral reef ecosystems. Audrey is just one example of the 500,000 Americans living with leukemia that are treated with this chemotherapy. Saving these coral reefs essentially means saving lives. “There’s layers and layers of reasons to keep these reefs intact…Audrey is one big reason” says Hanson.

Just a few days before the interview, the Lindsay’s were told Audrey’s medicine is working and she is in remission. “If we didn’t have those habitats, we wouldn’t know all that we could be taking advantage of and putting to use in such a magical way to heal our children,” says Lindsay.

In 2020 there were nearly 4,000 new cases of leukemia in Texas (these were the last numbers available from the CDC). The national demand for medications that depend on marine habitats has jumped nearly 1400% in the past decade, totaling more than 3 million prescriptions in 2021.

Get to know Holly Pacenta, M.D.

Holly PacentaAs a young child, Dr. Pacenta had an interest in helping people, so it's no surprise that she chose a career in medicine. She was especially drawn to pediatrics because, "Kids are so resilient. Even when they're sick they're still kids: wanting to play, have fun and joke around. I also think it's important to get to know my patients and to treat them like family." It was this desire that led Dr. Pacenta to pediatric oncology. As a medical student she was fascinated by the improvements being made in the field of pediatric cancer. Dr. Pacenta's primary area of interest is relapsed leukemia, especially new treatments including immunotherapy, cellular therapy and targeted therapy.

Learn more about Dr. Pacenta here.