9/15/2008 LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- More than half a million Americans are living with Crohn's disease and more than 100,000 of them are kids. There's no cure, but researchers have found a way to help ease the painful symptoms.
Fifteen-year-old Taralyn Allen is finally in the driver's seat! It's been a long road getting here. For the past four years, Allen has suffered from Crohn's disease.
"People aren't aware that Crohn's disease can affect children," Howard Baron, M.D., a pediatric gastroenterologist at Sunrise Children's Hospital in Las Vegas, Nev., told Ivanhoe. "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," Allen told Ivanhoe.
Allen'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, she's off the steroids. Allen is the first child in the world to take part in a study of a new drug marketed at Humira (adalimumab). 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 Allen, it's worked.
"Crohn's doesn't exist in me anymore," she says. "I feel completely normal."
Humira is still in studies. Children as young as five can enroll in the clinical trial. The youngest patient enrolled so far is 10-years-old.