Jack Demers was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma, a rare pediatric cancer of the nervous system, at a local hospital near his home in Connecticut in 2004. He was just two years old. For first-time parents Fran and Jeff, the news was particularly devastating. The odds of survival for this diagnosis at the time were very low. After hearing about the expertise of a team in the Department of Pediatrics at Memorial Sloan Kettering that focused solely on neuroblastoma, Jack’s parents made a decision that ultimately saved his life: They brought him to MSK.
- Jack Demers was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma in 2004 at just two years old. The rate of survival for his diagnosis at the time was low.
- His parents brought him to Memorial Sloan Kettering, where they worked with a team who specialized in his disease and were able to enroll Jack in an immunotherapy clinical trial developed at MSK.
- Jack received multiple cycles of therapy, both as initial treatment and after the return of his disease in 2009.
- After reaching remission, Jack began a second clinical trial with a vaccine to prevent the return of his cancer.
- Jack has been cancer free since 2011 and is living like any other high school student, spending his time playing basketball with friends and focusing on being a great big brother.
Pediatric oncologist Brian Kushner, a specialist in neuroblastoma, oversaw a multipronged approach to Jack’s disease, which included chemotherapy and an innovative clinical trial using immunotherapy to help Jack’s own immune system target the cancer cells. This was one of several therapies in ongoing development under the direction of pediatric oncologist Nai-Kong Cheung that was revolutionizing the treatment of neuroblastoma. After two years of treatment — which included complex, lifesaving surgery performed by Michael La Quaglia, a world-renowned expert in pediatric oncologic surgery — the Demers family received great news: Jack’s cancer was in remission.
However, being treated for cancer is rarely a smooth journey. Evidence of Jack’s disease returned in 2009. MSK was there with targeted treatment options to help him again. After reaching remission, he received a new preventative vaccine designed to fight off the return of the cancer. The approach worked — he has been cancer free since 2011.
Jack’s treatment was a challenge for the whole family, but being able to work with a collaborative care team offered the support and reassurance that helped them get through it together. By providing much of his treatment on an outpatient basis at MSK’s Pediatric Day Hospital and integrating specialized services to meet his social, developmental, and educational needs, Jack’s care team did everything possible to help him and his family maintain a sense of normalcy. Jack not only participated in martial arts but also enjoyed many activities with other pediatric patients and their families.
Now that Jack’s cancer is in remission, he has transitioned into the Pediatric Survivorship Program — which didn’t include any neuroblastoma patients when he first came to MSK.
Today, Jack is a typical high school student. He plays on the JV basketball team, loves riding his dirt bike, being a big brother, and spending time with friends. Although Jack has been through a great deal of challenges, the groundbreaking treatment options provided by his dedicated care team at MSK have allowed him to become a normal teenager with a bright future.