Collaborating in Patient Care

Pediatric cancer team restores life to young man

Pictured are Brandon Novack (center) and the leaders of his multidisciplinary medical team. (L-R): Michael Kelly, MD; Susie Burke, NP; Brandon; James Casper, MD; and Deb Schmidt, NP.
Pictured are Brandon Novack (center) and the leaders of his multidisciplinary medical team. (L-R): Michael Kelly, MD; Susie Burke, NP; Brandon; James Casper, MD; and Deb Schmidt, NP.

Brandon Novack was 12 when his mother, Joanie, noticed that his neck glands were swollen. As the condition persisted, lab results revealed something was wrong, and their primary physician referred Brandon to Medical College pediatric cancer specialists at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin’s MACC Fund Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders.

Two weeks before Christmas in 2002, Brandon and his parents met with Medical College cancer physician James Casper, MD, and nurse practitioner Susie Burke and learned that Brandon was diagnosed with T-Cell Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL), a higher risk cancer that occurs in less than 20% of childhood leukemias.

A multidisciplinary team of Medical College pediatric specialists went to work for Brandon, including cancer specialists, radiation oncologists, kidney specialists, surgeons, orthopaedic surgeons, and nurse practitioners. His treatment involved 108 weeks of chemotherapy, most intensively in the first year due to the cancer’s aggressive nature. Because T-cell ALL has a higher risk of spread to the brain and spinal cord, radiation therapy of the brain was also administered. As treatment progressed, side effect issues of the therapy required specialized medical management.

In 2009, Brandon was transferred into the long-term follow-up clinic - a celebratory step - where his care is overseen by Medical College cancer physician Michael Kelly, MD, PhD, and nurse practitioner Deb Schmidt.

The involvement of many Medical College specialists providing coordinated care, as well as the partnership between the College and Children’s Hospital, have been key throughout Brandon’s care. Medical College physicians and nurse practitioners work in concert with Children’s Hospital cancer nurse specialists, radiation technicians, pharmacists, and many other health professionals in Children’s state-of-the-art facilities.

Advances in medical research and treatment centers with multidisciplinary teams of specialists have led to high survival rates for many childhood cancers. The treatment success rate for T-Cell ALL in children is approximately 80%. Medical College pediatric cancer specialists are active members of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), which joins more than 200 leading institutions in the world, including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and UCLA, in collaborative research. Members jointly participate in clinical trials and the latest research, and offer patients the most advanced cancer treatments worldwide. In a major advance in 2011, COG selected the College’s pediatric cancer specialists and the Children’s Hospital’s MACC Fund Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders as a Phase 1 Center, allowing early phase clinical trials to be offered here. Fewer than two dozen COG members worldwide are designated Phase 1 Centers.

Brandon is attending UW-Green Bay, majoring in business administration. “Without my medical team, the MACC Fund and Children’s Hospital, I would not be here today,” said Brandon. “To all the people donating their time and money, to all the researchers, doctors and nurses, thank you. ”


In Pediatric Hematology, Oncology, and Bone Marrow Transplantation: Dr. Casper is Professor, Dr. Kelly is Associate Professor, Susie Burke is Nurse Practitioner and Debra Schmidt is Nurse Practitioner.

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