Two KC hospitals take on pills too big for children to swallow

It’s been a weekly routine for years at the Jolley household — crushing chemotherapy pills and mixing them with fruit juice so that 6-year-old Trevor, who’s under treatment for leukemia, can swallow them down.

“I think almost all of us who have children with cancer have to deal with crushing pills,” Trevor’s mother, Amy Jolley, said. “Parents are crushing chemo pills on the kitchen counter.”

The reason: Many cancer drugs were developed with adult patients in mind, and a lot are in pills that young children find hard to swallow.

That situation may be about to change.

Researchers at Children’s Mercy Hospital and the University of Kansas Medical Center are reformulating drugs into liquids that are not just easy to swallow, but not bad-tasting either.

“It’s sweet, nondescript, not quite cherry-flavor,” Kathleen Neville, a cancer drug researcher at Children’s Mercy, said of a liquid version of a mainstay cancer drug that may soon be tried on patients.

Neville, along with Amy and Trevor Jolley, were part of a presentation Wednesday at Children’s Mercy to showcase cancer research collaborations between the hospital and KU Cancer Center.

Cancer research in Kansas City has been in expansion mode, a result of KU’s efforts to gain designation as a National Cancer Institute cancer center. KU received the designation last summer and already is preparing to apply in 2016 for the NCI’s higher designation as a comprehensive cancer center. That will demand an even more extensive research portfolio.

| Alan Bavley, abavley@kcstar.com