on February 8th, 2016 No Comments
Eduardo Zambrano’s spare office in Stanford Hospital displays some of the essentials of his pathology practice: a large microscope which dominates his desktop and a cabinet overflowing with colorful, hand-painted wooden boxes, each one representing a Latin American child with cancer.
Over the last 12 years, Zambrano, MD, has received as many as 1,000 tumor samples from pediatric oncologists in Venezuela and other Latin American countries who treat desperately poor young patients with various forms of cancer. Each sample is carried on a glass side or embedded in wax, then carefully wrapped in tissue paper and lovingly packaged in a wooden box painted by a patient’s mother or local artisan as a gesture of gratitude. The boxes are covered in suns, stars, flowers and other images of life and hope.
“To me, behind each one of these boxes is a child with cancer, and to know we’ve been able to help them is very special to me,” said Zambrano, chief of pathology at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. An expert in pediatric solid tumors, he volunteers his service on behalf of these youngsters.
A professor of pediatrics and of pathology who came to Stanford a year ago, he said he receives one or two of these boxes a week. He examines the samples under the microscopic and then issues a diagnosis, some involving rare cancers. Clinicians ship the samples to him because in these low-resourced countries, they don’t have the means to accurately diagnose the problem.
“Very frequently the diagnosis (from the home country) is either incomplete because they don’t have the resources to perform confirmatory tests or it’s wrong because they don’t have expertise in pediatric tumors,” he said. “It’s frequent that I have to give them a significantly different diagnosis than what they sent.”
Among the most common tumors he sees are pediatric sarcomas, which can originate in various parts of the body; neuroblastomas; lymphomas; and brain tumors.