In 2012, 4-year-old Adam Frontera began complaining that his stomach and legs hurt. His parents were concerned and became especially alarmed when Adam began waking up at night as a result of agonizing pain in his stomach and bones. In search of answers, the Fronteras took Adam to see his primary care physician, where they found more questions.
At first, doctors thought it was the flu. Then, his parents questioned whether Adam suffered from food allergies. Finally, an ultrasound of his abdomen revealed a large tumor on his right adrenal gland. After a biopsy of the tumor, Adam was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare form of cancer. In addition to the large tumor, the cancer had spread throughout a large portion of his bones.
Looking at the computer screen of the General Electric CT image showing Adam’s tumor was an incredibly personal moment for Adam’s father, Mark. At the time of Adam’s diagnosis, Mark was managing the High Energy Physics Laboratory at the GE Global Research Center; he and his team had been working on evaluating technology trends in medical equipment. He knew his work was changing the lives of cancer patients, but it was not until this moment that he discovered how critical his work truly was.
“The technology field I was working in played a significant role in discovering Adam’s diagnosis and would become influential in his treatment as well. After seeing my own child on one of those scanner beds, I had a whole new sense of purpose,” said Mark. “When I went back to work, I didn’t feel helpless−I felt responsible. My goal became ‘How can I do it faster?’ and, ‘How can I do it better?’ to make sure we were creating better outcomes for patients like Adam.”
Due to the rarity of his diagnosis, Adam’s doctors recommended the family seek additional treatment options from experts at Dana-Farber’s Jimmy Fund Clinic. With a renewed sense of hope, the Frontera family traveled from Albany, N.Y., to Boston, to meet with Dr. Suzanne Shusterman at Dana-Farber.
“Before meeting with Adam’s team at Dana-Farber, our family felt a huge sense of despair. Walking through the hospital doors filled us with an overwhelming sense of hope,” said Mark. “We knew we were on our way to meeting with teams of doctors and researchers that were leading the way in cancer care. I truly felt like we were on our way to meet with the varsity team for Adam’s cancer type.”
In total, Adam has endured eight rounds of chemotherapy, a surgery for tumor resection and removal of his right adrenal gland, MIBG therapy, a stem cell transplant, 12 rounds of radiation, six rounds of antibody therapy, and 12 months of Accutane treatments. He spent over 180 nights in the hospital and countless appointments, split between Dana-Farber’s facilities in Boston, M.A., and the Fronteras’ local hospital, Albany Medical Center.
During this intensive treatment, Adam did not feel well enough to play with friends and much of the time he was too immunocompromised to leave the house. Today, Adam is finished with treatment and back to being a normal kid. He constantly makes his family laugh and smile.
Mark and his family are committed to supporting Dana-Farber’s mission. As a part of their commitment, the Frontera family has pledged to raise $100,000 to support the work of Dr. Suzanne Shusterman at Dana-Farber. It is their hope that these funds will help Dana-Farber expand treatment options for neuroblastoma and provide more effective ways to overcome the most challenging forms of this type of cancer.
“The more resources we can bring to research, the better position Adam’s going to be in and the better position the next round of kids will be in. There are kids out there who are counting on us,” said Mark.
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