St. Luke's Mountain States Tumor Institute, also known as MSTI, has been doing adult blood and marrow transplants since 1993. However, until now, the hospital has had no way of performing these types of procedures on children. This means families were having to travel to surrounding states, like Oregon, Washington, or Utah to get these medical procedures done.
In May of 2016, that all changed. The first pediatric autologous stem cell transplant was completed on Tate Fontaine at St. Luke's in Boise.
When Tate was 3-months-old, he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. It's a form of cancer, most common in toddlers, that forms in immature nerve cells.
"Something that you never really imagine will happen to your own child," Jet Fontaine, Tate's father, said.
One way of treating this type of cancer is through a stem cell transplant. Initially this meant the Fontaines were going to have to travel to Utah to get treatment for their toddler.
Tate had been undergoing chemotherapy at St. Luke's prior to the procedure, and the family preferred to have it done here so they didn't have to uproot their family.
"It was either the option of moving all of us for three to six months or just one of us going," Fontaine said.
The Fontaine's insurance denied coverage of his stem cell transplant at St. Luke's in Boise, but with the help of Dr. Nathan Meeker and the Luke's staff they were able to work with the family to be able to perform the procedure in Idaho.
What the procedure allows is for doctors to take a toddler's bone marrow out of the body and freeze it. This allows the child to undergo some pretty intense chemotherapy cycles.
"We know that if we were to give these powerful drugs. We would definitely treat the cancer, but we will also harm the patient’s bone marrow. So this process allows us to use those very powerful drugs and not worry about the bone marrow anymore," Dr. Meeker said.
Dr. Meeker says the more chemo they can give to a child, the more effective it will be at killing all the cancer cells. Once the child is through these intense cycles, the stem cells are then put back into the body.
"Those stem cells will go back to the bone marrow and regenerate all the cells of the bone marrow and all the cells of the blood," Dr. Meeker said.
Dr. Meeker says the state's first pediatric stem cell transplant has been a success because Tate's cancer is now in remission.
Tate is still undergoing treatment. He's being given antibodies to attack any cancer that may be left. Dr. Meeker says he will have to undergo these treatments for a couple more months, and added they will likely monitor Tate for most of his childhood to ensure the cancer doesn't come back.