Hadassah On Call: New Frontiers in Medicine

Kids, Cancer & Genes

Hear the latest on childhood cancers: possible causes, bone marrow transplants and other treatments including precision medicine and ongoing research in DNA and liquid biopsies.


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About this episode

Dr. Gal Goldstein is the head of the Pediatric Oncology and Hemato-Oncology Department at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem. A graduate of Tel Aviv University, Dr. Goldstein has specialized for over twenty years in pediatrics, pediatric hemato-oncology and haploidentical bone marrow transplantation.

Included in the 2019-2020 Forbes list of best doctors in Israel, Dr. Goldstein is also a member of The Israel Society of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology (ISPHO), The Israeli Cancer Association (ICA), The International Association of Oncology (IAO) and The International Society of Pediatric Oncology (SIOP). His main fields of interest are retinoblastoma, precision medicine, and pediatric oncology in general.

In the current episode of Hadassah on Call, host Maayan Hoffman speaks with Dr. Gal Goldstein, director of the Department of Pediatric Hemato-Oncology at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem about childhood cancers.

Dr. Goldstein is an expert in blood diseases and cancer and his department works with patients suffering from both diseases. He notes that blood cancer is the most common pediatric cancer.

And while many parents may fear that their children could develop cancer, as Dr. Goldstein notes they would not be able to predict it, as there is no known prevention or cause. In reality, childhood cancer is very rare.

"There is 50 or 60 times more cancer in adults than in children," Dr. Goldstein said. "In Israel, we have about 30,000 new cancer cases each year and only 500 of them are children."

But some signs and symptoms should put parents and grandparents on alert, he said: acute pains that are so severe the child cannot function or pains that don't go away for a very long time.

Doctors believe today that childhood cancers could be genetic.

"At some point in development there may be a mutation that causes cancer," Dr. Goldstein said. "Now, we can only find about 10% of mutations that cause cancer. But we are in a genetic revolution and doing more genetic tests for kids with cancer will find more genes in the next few years."

Dr. Goldstein clarified that "genetic" does not mean inherited. Usually, the mutation occurs after conception, so children do not get cancer from their parents, he stressed. At Hadassah, the pediatric and adult oncology departments are collaborating on research in which they are taking blood samples from children who have cancer, doing genetic testing and using artificial intelligence (AI) to find the mutations that until now were not known.

"Hopefully when the research is complete, we will have more information about this genetic cancer predisposition," Dr. Goldstein said.

Dr. Goldstein has been working in the field of oncology for 20 years and notes that his team at Hadassah has topmost empathy and compassion for the patients and their families and that is how they can survive working in such a devastating department. They've created a balance by figuring out how to draw a line so that "the agony, pain and sorry cannot penetrate your personal life."

He also highlighted how Hadassah staff and patients are diverse: Arabs and Jews from all backgrounds — secular, orthodox and ultra-orthodox — as well as patients from all over the world, come to Hadassah to receive care in the department because of its top-level treatment.

What's next in the field?

Dr. Goldstein is hopeful that "in the next few years we will be able to locate fragments of DNA in the cells of the tumor and find them via a liquid biopsy.”

He also said he expects to see more precision medicine and therefore greater ability to prevent long-term effects of cancer that are seen today in some children.

Further learning:

"Hadassah On Call: New Frontiers in Medicine" is a production of Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America. Hadassah enhances the health of people around the world through medical education, care and research innovations at the Hadassah Medical Organization. For more information on the latest advances in medicine please head over to hadassah.org.

Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or your favorite podcast app. If you haven't already, please leave us a review on the iTunes store. It only takes a minute and when you do it helps others discover "Hadassah on Call."

The show is hosted by Maayan Hoffman and produced by the team at the Hadassah offices in both New York and Israel.

Read a transcript of this episode.

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Our recent episode with Professor Allon Moses:

If you are enjoying this episode, you'll want to check out our previous episode with Professor Allon Moses, the immediate past head of Hadassah’s department of clinical microbiology and infectious diseases.  He puts the monkeypox virus into perspective. You can find that episode of “Hadassah On Call” on Apple Podcast, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcast. Or on the web at hadassah.org/hadassahoncall.

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