Bieber ‘date’ shines light on pediatric cancer

Routh was diagnosed with AT/RT when she was nine months old.

February 20, 2012 18:16
2 minute read.
Justin Bieber at Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv.

Justin Bieber 311. (photo credit: Avihai Levy)

BOSTON—Avalanna Routh celebrated Valentine’s Day this year with a date for the ages. The six year old Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center patient, who has been diagnosed with a rare brain tumor went on a “dream date” with Justin Bieber, thanks in part to a Facebook campaign to have Routh meet the pop star. As important as the date itself, however, is the attention it has focused on atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumor, or AT/RT.

“AT/RT doesn’t get a lot of attention mainly because the disease is relatively rare,” said Mark Kieran, MD, PhD, a pediatric oncologist and AT/RT expert at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center. “When you compare a hundred or so cases a year worldwide to millions of cases of breast cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer every year, this just isn’t on a lot of people’s radar or in medical research budgets.”

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Routh was diagnosed with AT/RT when she was nine months old. AT/RT typically affects the brain, but the tumors can occur on the spine and elsewhere in the central nervous system. The average survival time from diagnosis is approximately 12 months, according to the National Cancer Institute. Thanks to an intense, multi-pronged therapy regimen ( developed by Kieran and other researchers at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center, a few young children have been cured, while others, including Routh, have been given a better shot at long-term survival.

“I don’t want to underestimate how really difficult battling this disease has been both for Avalanna and her parents,” said Kieran. “But Avalanna is exactly the kind of proof that we can make an impact on a rare and highly deadly disease if we develop an understanding of what the disease is and provide, based on all our new molecular and novel therapeutic targets, the kinds of treatments that can actually improve survival rates and save lives.”

For more information on Dana-Farber/Children’s Cancer Center pediatric brain tumor program, visit
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute ( is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute. It provides adult cancer care with Brigham and Women’s Hospital as Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and it provides pediatric care with Children’s Hospital Boston as Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center. Dana-Farber is the top ranked cancer center in New England, according to U.S. News & World Report, and one of the largest recipients among independent hospitals of National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health grant funding. Follow Dana-Farber on Twitter: @danafarber and Facebook:

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