Kennedie and Zebrafish Fight Cancer Together


SAN ANTONIO, Texas. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Zebrafish are rapidly becoming the ‘go-to’ animals in cancer research. Small and translucent, they breed rapidly, and take up little room. But most important; they grow transplanted cancer tumors in their little bodies very quickly. This gives doctors a clear view of why some cancers metastasize and recur. Eventually, this research will yield treatment for these recurrent cancers, which can be deadly.

Kennedie Bailey was a healthy, happy fifth grader until this past summer, when doctors diagnosed her with rhabdomyosarcoma; a rare form of childhood cancer.

Bailey told Ivanhoe, “He did a biopsy and then a few weeks later, we found out the results and that’s how we learned that I had rhabdomyosarcoma.”

Kennedie’s stepfather, Chris Bendele, explained, “I mean anytime you hear something like that, it’s gonna be a shocker to you.  Especially when you see them healthy, and then you find out, oh you know.”

Although rare, Kennedie’s cancer is treatable. The larger problem is when the cancer recurs. So, researchers are utilizing zebrafish, in which they transplant cancerous tumors and keep a careful eye on them.

“You can look at it under the microscope and follow it for days, months and years and we can follow a cancer. How cancers form, and because they’re transparent, we can look in a tumor and say these are stem cells, this is a blood vessel. What are they doing?” Myron Ignatius, PhD, Researcher, UT Health San Antonio explained. (Read Full Interview)

Hopefully not recurring, because the survival rate drops dramatically. There is no treatment for the 20 percent of patients who relapse.

Aaron Sugalski, DO, Hematologist/Oncologist, UT Health San Antonio stated, “My expectation for the research study would be that it leaves us to be able to identify which patients are going to have a recurrence sooner, and then also ultimately being able to end up to treat those recurrences.”

“Whatever they can find out not only for her but for other kids, you know … it’s extremely important,” said Bendele.

Professor Ignatius and his team keep between 10,000-15,000 fish in the laboratory, working around the clock to help find a cure for children like Kennedie.

Contributors to this news report include: Donna Parker, Field Producer; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Gabriella Battistiol, Assistant Producer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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BACKGROUND: Childhood rhabdomyosarcoma or embryonal rhabdomyosarcoma is a type of cancerous tumor that arises in soft tissue such as muscle. It can occur throughout childhood and may be present at birth. It accounts for about seven or eight percent of childhood cancers; about 2/3 of cases are diagnosed in children younger than age 10. Symptoms are similar to other cancers and may include but are not limited to a lump or swelling that does not go away, constipation, bulging eyes, headaches, and bleeding in the nose, vagina or rectum. Survival rates vary on factors such as location, size, and amount of tumor that can be removed. More than 70 percent of children with rhabdomyosarcoma that has not spread survive long-term.

TREATMENT: Patients will generally have surgery first, which is used to biopsy or remove a small portion to be examined in the lab and to remove as much of it as possible. After surgery, patients receive chemotherapy, using powerful medicines to kill cancer cells or stop them from growing. Chemo may be injected or given by mouth, and combination therapy uses more than one type of chemo at a time. More surgery or radiation therapy may be used for some patients, which uses high-energy X-rays or other types of radiation to kill cancer cells. External radiation uses machines outside of the body to deliver this, while internal radiation uses needles, seeds, wires or tubes to deliver the radiation directly into or close to the cancer.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: Like most childhood cancers, there is a 70-80 percent survival rate after treatment of primary tumors in patients with rhabdomyosarcoma. However, when the tumor recurs or relapses there are no current treatments and less than 40 percent of patients who relapse survive their disease. A team at UT Health San Antonio, are conducting a number of experiments in their facility using between 10,000-15,000 laboratory zebrafish to better understand how the tumors relapse in children with rhabdomyosarcoma and other sarcomas by transplanting cancerous tumors into the zebrafish and monitoring them closely.

(Source: Myron Ignatius, PhD)


Will Sansom

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