Helping Crohn's Disease

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
July 4, 2008 4:49:59 PM PDT
More than half a million Americans are living with Crohn's Disease, and more than 10,000 of them are kids. There is no cure, but researchers have found a way to help ease the painful symptoms.In Las Vegas, 15-year-old Taralyn Allen is finally in the driver's seat. Just a few months before she get's her driver's license, Taraylyn's mom is watchng her every move. It was a long road to get there. For the past four years, Taralyn has suffered from Crohn's Disease.

"People aren't aware that Crohn's Disease can affect children," said Dr. Howard Baron, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Sunrise Children's Hospital. "The parents will assume it's the flu and it goes on and on and on."

Crohn's is an inflammatory bowel disease, where the intestinal lining becomes inflamed, causing severe abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and bleeding.

"I felt sick 24-7," Taralyn said.

Taralyn's Crohn's was treated with steroids, which relieved some of the pain, but caused her to go from 70 pounds to 130 pounds in just a few months. Now, Taralyn is off the steroids.

She is the first child in the world to take part in a study of a new drug marketed as Humira. It's already successfully used on adults.

"It is an antibody against a chemical that starts the inflammatory cascade in your body," Dr. Baron said.

It stops white blood cells from migrating to the lining of tissues, which causes the inflammation and the pain. But the drug comes with risks. It decreases the immune system and kids with Crohn's could be at a slightly higher risk for lymphoma. But for Taralyn, it's worked.

"Crohn's doesn't exist in me anymore," she said. "I feel completely normal."

And now that her stomach pain is gone, she'll concentrate on the road ahead.

Humira is still in studies. Children as young as 5 can enroll in the clinical trial. The youngest patient enrolled so far is 10.


Ashlee Seymour
Director of Media Relations
Sunrise Children's Hospital
(702) 731-8288


STORY BY: Dr. Jay Adlersberg