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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In life, she inspired hope and happiness for countless others, and now the little girl who became known for the slogan “Live Like Bella” may be poised to save other children – even after her death.
Bella Rodriguez-Torres was diagnosed at age 4 with a children’s cancer that left her unable to walk. Doctors gave her four months to live. Bella not only proved the doctors wrong, she fought back the cancer and walked, even literally hopscotched her way into the hearts and minds of the nation.
Bella became an inspirational icon. The slogan “Live Like Bella” appeared on bracelets, on car windows, even highway overpasses. Bella lost her battle with cancer six years after doctors said she would, but the fight against the disease goes on in her name.
“One of the worst things you can hear as a parent of a child with cancer is ‘I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do,'” Bella’s father, Raymond said Tuesday.
Raymond Rodriguez-Torres was in Hialeah Tuesday recording a fund-raising announcement for support of human trials for a drug that may have miracle potential. Researchers at North Carollina State University, in cooperation with BioMarck Pharmaceuticals, have come upon a drug, known only by a number now, BIO-11006, that has been demonstrated in mice to stop countless cancers in their tracks. It attacks a protein specific to many cancers, including the one that killed Bella.
“This drug blocks this protein from being active, and by blocking that protein, it stops the cancer cells from metastasizing, from spreading,” said the lead researcher in the effort, N.C. State’s Dr. Ken Adler.
After her death, researchers sent a preserved biopsy of Bella’s cancer to the researchers in North Carolina.
A “before” slide shows tissue covered with reddish spots, cancer cells. An “after” photo of the same slide, following just three days of treatment with the new drug, shows the cancer cells gone.
Patients of last resort could get the drug as early as January. It has already been proven safe in the treatment of patients with respiratory ailments, so “compassionate treatment” with the drug for cancer patients who have not been helped by other treatments should be approved by regulators, even before blind human trials begin.
“For those parents and those children this is potentially significant, because they will have one more option to try,” Raymond Rodriguez-Torres said.
Giving up was never an option for Bella, a little girl with a huge heart, still beating, her father said.
“I miss Bella with every fiber of my being, and yet we know that she’s more alive than she’s ever been before,” Rodriguez-Torres said. “She’s very much helping us to eventually find a cure for her friends who are battling childhood cancer.”
Live Like Bella will formally announce its fundraising campaign to support clinical trials of the promising new cancer drug for children at the annual Bella’s Ball to be held September 10th in Miami.
To learn more about the gala charity event and the Live Like Bella Foundation visit livelikebella.org.