Struggles With A Rare Disease

A lot has happened over the last month and lately, I have been extremely exhausted and find myself wanting to crawl in bed, get under the covers and stay there for as long as possible.  I am a warrior for this disease and for all those suffering from it. Hell, my tiny little foundation has raised and contributed over a million dollars in our fight against Wolfram and we are going to a clinical trial on a drug that “could” stop the progression of this nasty disease. 

I can handle this aspect of the disease because I feel, in a way, I can control the outcome to help my daughter and others like her. One challenging fact is the outcome will be dictated by the amount of money we continue to raise. I am hopeful though that many others will see the vision and join our fight.

As each day passes, I can not control the health of my beautiful Raquel. I have noticed how sick my child really is, and I think this is taking a major toll on me personally, and I am really struggling with it.

I have four unbelievable children, yet one suffers tremendously from a disease that has no CURE.  I witness my other daughters and son maturing, exploring and growing like they should be. They have tons of friends, sleepovers and are enjoying life the way they should be at their age. Yet I watch my 11 year-old struggle each and every day. Perhaps I should also acknowledge in my journey alongside her, I am also struggling.

I had a great childhood, a secure childhood with fabulous parents who taught me wrong from right and how to be a good person. I was also a healthy kid and so were my siblings.  I believe that when I met the man of my dreams and decided to have kids that I would provide a great childhood and life for my kids the way my parents Merry and Jack Snow had provided me.  Now in retrospect, that did not work out the way that I thought it would.

Raquel has missed more school days than she has attended this year.  She seems to be sick all the time with headaches, bladder issues, high blood sugar, stomachaches, exhaustion. The list goes on and on. My heart aches for this child of mine who suffers so much, although I am not sure if Raquel sees it the same way.  I witness her inability to be a normal 6th grader. If her blood sugars are high or low, she will go to the nurse’s office, sometimes she will be in the nurse’s office all day. 

She misses out on her classes, teachers, friends and simply experiencing school like all the other kids. She has a special ed teacher accompany her around, so it is like having a grown up with you all day long. I wonder how she is perceived by her peers. Raquel called a few friends of hers this past Halloween to see if she could trick or treat with them. Everyone said they already had plans. They could’ve easily invited her along, but did not.  Then to see these same friends come to my door and ask for candy broke my heart. 

I have to learn to accept what I cannot change. As a mother knowing that your child is going blind and most likely will not make it to her 30th birthday, I wish for her the most joyful childhood memories, as they are the ones that she will have with her forever. 

Sometimes I think even her own siblings do not get what she is going through. So I am not mad at her friends or her siblings, I am mad at the situation at hand, and I am frustrated that I cannot raise the amount of money quick enough to make life better for her. 

But I am hopeful for the future, what we’re doing with the Snow Foundation and the possibilities that are available for Raquel and others like her. I hope for the day that I can give Raquel the world that I had dreamt of giving her the day she was born.

Researchers launch first clinical trial for Wolfram syndrome

The drug dantrolene is a muscle relaxant approved to treat patients with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and muscle spasticity. Recent research also suggests it can prevent the destruction of insulin-secreting beta cells in animal models of Wolfram syndrome. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are beginning a clinical trial to assess the drug as a treatment for patients with Wolfram syndrome.

The drug dantrolene is a muscle relaxant approved to treat patients with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and muscle spasticity. Recent research also suggests it can prevent the destruction of insulin-secreting beta cells in animal models of Wolfram syndrome. Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are beginning a clinical trial to assess the drug as a treatment for patients with Wolfram syndrome.

 

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are launching a new clinical trial to assess the safety of a drug treatment for patients with the rare disease Wolfram syndrome.

Wolfram syndrome affects about one in every 500,000 people worldwide. Many of those patients die prematurely from the disease. Patients with Wolfram syndrome typically develop diabetes at a very young age and require insulin injections several times each day. The disorder also causes hearing loss, vision problems and difficulty with balance.

Although doctors treat patients’ symptoms, there have not been any therapies that slow the syndrome’s progress.

However, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine soon will test a drug treatment in 24 patients who have the genetic disorder.

The scientists previously reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the drug, dantrolene — a muscle relaxant approved to treat patients with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis and muscle spasticity — prevents the destruction of insulin-secreting beta cells in animal models of Wolfram syndrome and in brain cells differentiated from skin samples taken from patients with the illness.

“Nobody has ever tested dantrolene in patients with Wolfram syndrome, so our first and most important objective is to make sure it’s safe,” said principal investigator Fumihiko Urano, MD, PhD, the Samuel E. Schechter Professor of Medicine. “I am very hopeful, however. The major question that I get from every patient I see is, ‘Is there any treatment?’ And until now, I’ve had to say no. With any luck, perhaps this study can help change that.”

In the mouse studies, and in experiments with brain cells made from a patient’s own stem cells, Urano previously found that dantrolene prevented death of brain cells and insulin-secreting beta cells.

Urano’s team plans to study 12 adult and 12 pediatric patients over nine months. All of the participants will undergo extensive testing before they begin taking the medication and after having taken the drug for six months. The researchers will closely monitor patients’ vision and brain function, as well as the function of their remaining insulin-secreting beta cells.

To be eligible for the study, all patients must be able to travel to the Washington University Medical Campus for testing and medication.

The study is funded by the Snow Foundation and the Ellie White Foundation. Both are advocacy groups that support Wolfram syndrome research. Urano also has applied for federal funding to support the clinical trial and wants to expand it to other medical centers.

He doubts that dantrolene can reverse the illness. “But hopefully, we can at least delay the progression of the disease,” he said.

For more information, call study coordinator Ashley Simpson at 314-286-1550, or e-mail ashley.simpson@wustl.edu.

 

Article by Jim Dryden

The Snow Foundation: Fighting for a Cure

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Wolfram syndrome afflicts only about one in 500,000 people, but a local organization is doing everything it can to bring the numbers down and find a way to cure this incurable disease.

As described on The Snow Foundation’s website, Wolfram syndrome is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder that starts with insulin-dependent diabetes in early childhood. Unlike with common types of diabetes, these children go on to develop blindness, deafness and other neurologic disturbances. Since there’s no cure for the disease, more than 60 percent of patients die before the age of 30.

The Snow Foundation’s dedication to research has led the group to a new and exciting stage: the first-ever worldwide clinical trial for Wolfram syndrome. For the past few years, the foundation’s researchers have been focused on pre-clinical testing, but after receiving unconditional institutional review-board approval, they are now ready to begin clinical testing. Dr. Saad Naseer, chief executive and chief medical officer of the foundation, says all the money from charitable donations is paying off.

“We plan on beginning the clinical trial in January,” he says. “All patients will receive the same dose of the same medication and will be monitored in the same manner. The patients will serve as their own control.”

Naseer notes that if the foundation can figure out a treatment for this form of diabetes, the treatment will be able to help all forms of diabetes.

“These kids lose their vision and hearing; it’s a premature and accelerated degenerative process,” he says. “And although there is no cure, our work may lead to therapies for this and other neurodegenerative processes such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.”

Washington University in St. Louis will be the epicenter of the trial, though it will include Wolfram syndrome patients from all over the world, including France, Brazil, England, Spain, Italy and Jordan.

“This all comes down to funding,” Naseer says. “Clinical trials cost millions of dollars. It’s been tough, but our results keep coming back positive, and we have an overwhelming amount of interest in participating in this clinical trial. I think if we’re able to get a large donor, it would ensure that more patients are successfully treated in an expedited manner.”

 The Snow Foundation doesn’t have an office or salaries, so every single dollar goes directly to research.

“This is a David-and-Goliath kind of story,” Naseer says. “We’re small and underfunded, but I think with the right motivation and intention, we can go far in bettering the lives of these children.”

The Snow Foundation, P.O. Box 50224, Clayton, 636-448-4134, thesnowfoundation.org

 

Written By: Robyn Dexter