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Cole Owens' Story

Remarkable Young Man Battles Rare and Deadly Cancer

In October 2006 Cole Owens’ mother noticed a lump in her seemingly healthy five year-old’s abdomen. Laura Owens wasn’t overly concerned, because Cole was active and athletic, with a passion and talent for soccer. But what Laura felt was a desmoplastic small round cell tumor (DSRCT), a rare and deadly childhood cancer. Soon Cole’s oncologist delivered the grim prognosis: based on all known cases of DSRCT, Cole had less than a 15 percent chance of surviving to enter the fourth grade.

Cole’s courage and determination on the soccer field would have to be re-directed to a new fight - beating his cancer. He (and his mother) began an almost unimaginable six year battle against his disease:

  • Seven courses of chemotherapy, administering cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, ifosfamide, and etoposide
  • Extensive abdominal surgery to resect the tumors
  • Two more rounds of chemo with cyclophosphamide (CPM) and irinotecan
  • Collection of stem cells for later transplant
  • 16 rounds of full abdominal/pelvic radiation
  • New tumor masses discovered in lower pelvis and liver
  • More chemo – CPM and vinorelbine
  • Ten sessions of intensity-modulated radiation therapy on newly discovered liver tumor
  • Second surgical resection of tumors
  • More chemo – nexavar
  • Begin weekly PEG interferon injections
  • Six infusions with previously-harvested T-cells.

Twice Cole’s doctors declared his tumors inoperable. But he fought on, overcoming countless insults and injuries to his young body. And so far, Cole has defied the odds.

Cole examines DSRCT cells in tissue culture

Cole Owens celebrated the sixth anniversary of his DSRCT diagnosis on October 30, 2012, along with scientists working on his cancer at CHRISTUS Stehlin Foundation. He is one of fewer than twenty DSRCT patients who have survived beyond five years. Ever. And though he remains in treatment for tumors in his liver that surgeons can’t reach, Cole is back playing soccer.

He’s considering becoming a scientist.

Virtually no research has been done to find and fight the causes of this devastating childhood disease. Few oncologists have experience with DSRCT, so misdiagnosis is common. (For the first six months of Cole’s therapy, his doctors thought they were treating a different cancer.) Though aggressive surgery is a major determinant in prolonging patient survival, no truly effective treatment exists. But there is hope.

John Mendoza explains cell culture techniques

CHRISTUS Stehlin Foundation is creating the first tissue culture cell lines of DSRCT and transplanting human DSRC tumors into mice for testing. The goals of this three year, $971,000 project are to study the biological behavior of DSRCT outside the patient and to discover and test new drugs and other treatments. As new cell lines are established, the Foundation will make them available to other cancer researchers worldwide. >>Read more

Join the Fight

If you would like an update on Cole Owens’ progress or to send him your best wishes, please visit his CaringBridge website.

If you or a family member are affected by DSRCT and are interested in participating in the Foundation’s research, or you have questions about its tumor collection program, please contact Doug Coil, Deputy Laboratory Supervisor, 713-659-1336.

You can support the Foundation’s sarcoma research by donating online today or by contacting Foundation president Bobby Anderson.

Reasons for Hope

I have been constantly impressed not only with the CHRISTUS Stehlin Foundation’s rich legacy of transformative research, but also the tenacious commitment of foundation staff to the vision of Dr. Stehlin. A connection between this vision and the mission of our sponsoring congregations was immediately clear, as both seek not only to treat illness, but also honor the dignity inherent in every person.”

Tom Royer, M.D.,
CEO Emeritus, CHRISTUS Health, 2011


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CHRISTUS Stehlin Foundation for Cancer Research

10301 Stella Link Road, Suite A
Houston, Texas 77025-5447

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