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Filling the Gaps in Pediatric Cancer

Amanda and Joseph Sarmiento

In her late 20s, Amanda (Sprenger) Sarmiento battled osteosarcoma for nearly three years. Extensive, complex surgery was required for a chance of cure, but she faced a unique challenge: the location of her tumor was not easily accessible for operation.

Few cases like Amanda’s come through the health care system, so research and effective treatments have been particularly scarce. But thanks in part to the generosity of Amanda’s family and friends, one physician at Rush is changing that.

Paul Kent, MD, a pediatric oncology physician at Rush, played a large role in Amanda’s care, providing treatment and guidance through chemotherapy sessions, radiation and surgeries as well as helping to navigate critical decisions made by Amanda and her family. With osteosarcoma more commonly found in children and young adults, older patients like Amanda benefit most from the protocols and expertise of pediatric oncologists.

“I can’t remember seeing a braver patient than Amanda,” Kent said. “Her surgery carried out over two whole days — it was her only and best chance for survival but incredibly risky. With the support of her family though, she was brave enough to try.”

“In all instances, no matter who we were dealing with, Dr. Kent was the only constant,” said Joe Sarmiento, Amanda’s husband (pictured with her above). “He was always 100 percent behind us the whole way, checking in on us every day and determined to find a cure.”

In the month after Amanda passed away, more than $10,000 was raised in her memory by family and friends donating to Rush in lieu of sending flowers or gifts. Soon after, enough money had been contributed to create a new fund in support of Kent’s osteosarcoma clinical research.

Finding a cure

“Dr. Kent goes above and beyond to explore and educate on what pediatric oncology needs right now, the gaps that need to be filled, as well as the barriers that currently exist for the patient population,” said third-year Rush Medical College student Christopher Kuo.

Kuo, who lost his own brother to osteosarcoma in 2011, was able to work with Kent (pictured with a patient) on this research through support from donors to Amanda’s fund.

As part of Kent’s research team, currently investigating a novel chemotherapy combination for young, high-risk sarcoma patients, Kuo continues to realize the enormous demand for more research in pediatric oncology.

“This is my opportunity to do something for my brother and for anyone else who has lost their loved ones to this kind of cancer,” Kuo said. “Dr. Kent teaches us to fight the fight that you believe in, and that really goes a long way — especially in pediatric oncology.”

Help make a change

Now three years after Amanda Sarmiento’s passing, more than 400 donations totaling more than $55,000 are making this research possible through the Sarmiento and Sprenger families’ various fundraising efforts.

“This disease needs Dr. Kent,” Joe Sarmiento said. “He is one of the only people dedicated to a cure, with full faith that there is one.”

For more information on memorial giving, contact Lisa Gerberding, associate director of annual giving, at lisa_gerberding@rush.edu and (312) 563-3164.

For more information on supporting pediatric cancer efforts at Rush, contact Brigid Mullen, associate director of development, at brigid_t_mullen@rush.edu and (312) 942-4460.

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