Medicine Helped Him. Now He Helps Others

Photo: Lukáš Navara
thursday 2. february 2017, 12:50 – Text: Velena Mazochová

Three men, one photograph. A doctor, a student of medicine who has been successfully treated for leukaemia, and a scientist have lent their faces to the foundation Rakovina věc veřejná (Cancer is a Public Affair), whose campaign to support research of tumorous diseases was supported by select Czech media. It combined not only an attempt to address the general public, but also a happy story of overcoming an insidious disease, thanks to the most modern therapeutic methods and approaches.

To increase the awareness of the public on oncological research was a group decision by the third-year student of general medicine, Denis Dvořák; the Head of the Olomouc Children’s Clinic, Vladimír Mihál; and the Director of the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine at the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry (UP FMD IMTM), Marián Hajdúch. “By means of a campaign we wanted to make the area of support visible, which abroad is massively funded from private and charitable sources. At the same time, we drew attention to the existence of a foundation which co-finances tumour research. Many people have contributed to it, but we believe that in Czechia this area and its potential are still greater,” says Marián Hajdúch.

Return to a full life

When Denis Dvořák was two and a half, he fell ill with acute lymphatic leukaemia, the basic treatment method for which is chemotherapy. “Like every oncological disease, it is serious. It greatly depends on the prognostic signs and proper diagnostics. And our surgery is one of the best in the country, due to excellent cytogenetics,” explains Vladimír Mihál, emphasising: “Denis luckily had what is called a standard type of acute lymphatic leukaemia, and so we knew that unless something unusual would happen, it could be treated.”

As with the majority of child patients, Denis’s treatment lasted two years. In the first six months he went through intensive “protocol” treatment in the hospital. “This is based on intravenous application of different types of cytostatics,” Mihál explains. For another six months of maintenance therapy he would go to the clinic once a month. “It is a still very demanding treatment consisting of two cytostatics, but it is administered orally. At the same time we monitor the patient carefully, praying with them that the treatment will be successful,” says Mihál.

Denis did not feel that the disease had a marked influence on his childhood, nor does he follow any special regime today. “Aside from regular check-ups at my general practitioner, I live like everybody else, without barriers.” His personal experience with a serious illness however perhaps influenced his view of himself and the world around him. “I think that I’ve realised what matters most. At any rate, since finishing treatment I have never had any serious illnesses, nor do I think someone ought to be caring for me.”

Repaying a debt

However he has been offering his help as a member of the Šance (Chance) Olomouc citizen’s cooperative, which tries to help children undergoing demanding anti-tumoral treatment and in their return to ordinary life. Denis Dvořák has been involved in various activities since his childhood, and since he was eighteen he has worked as one of the leaders of summer and winter camps, which he himself used to go to as a child. “I’d like to contribute in my modest way to the work of the cooperative. Maybe it’s like repaying a debt, but most of all, I enjoy it,” says Denis.

R&D – The basic requirement for successful treatment

According to Mihál, the success rate in the treatment of acute leukaemia has increased significantly in the last two decades. “Only twenty years ago, the survival rate for acute childhood leukaemia was only 10–15%. The overall survival rate of such patients today in Olomouc is 95%.”

And as Marián Hajdúch emphasises, research and development of new treatment methods and approaches has played a large part in this positive trend: “Research is always in its infancy. But if you do not carry it out, nor support it, the test results will bear that out. You have to begin sooner than later.”

 

Rakovina věc veřejná (Cancer is a Public Affair) – The Olomouc Cancer Research Foundation, was founded in 1997 as the first non-profit organisation in the Czech Republic to support research and development in the area of tumorous diseases. It is also aimed at the primary and secondary prevention of malignant tumours and other serious civilisational diseases. At the same time it contributes to the fostering and further education of experts and to providing standard and non-standard medical and scientific equipment. It also develops intensive educational activities via its information-prevention projects intended for the general public. It directly supports the science and research being carried out at the state-of-the-art workplaces at the UP FMD IMTM.

Cancer research supported by a book of fairy tales

Famous celebrities decided to support research into tumorous diseases by an original method, writing a book of “Dedicated Fairy Tales”. Ten original stories from the pens of Dr Josef Koutecký, biathlon athlete Gabriela Koukalová, comedian Lukáš Pavlásek, singer Ester Kočičková, and actor Igor Bareš, with illustrations by Carolyn Gad, was published by the Cancer Research Foundation in a bilingual Czech-English edition.