First Ukrainian Children With Cancer Arrive In U.S. For Treatment


Four Ukrainian children diagnosed with cancer have arrived at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, making the Memphis facility the first in the United States to receive patients whose critical medical treatment was disrupted by the war in the European nation.

The children and their families arrived from Krakow, Poland, aboard U.S. government-operated medical transport aircraft, State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement, adding that the patients at St. Jude will now be able to safely resume their cancer therapy treatment.

“They will receive the specialized care they desperately need, and their family members will be afforded sustenance, security, and support from St. Jude,” he said.

The four children, whose ages range from nine months to nine years, will also receive trauma psychosocial therapy, the hospital said, adding that educators are currently developing a school curriculum for them and their siblings.

“Our promise to children with catastrophic diseases extends around the globe, and we are honored to play a part in helping these families move to safety to continue their children’s treatment,” St. Jude President and CEO James Downing said in a statement.

Since Russia launched its war against Ukraine late last month, critical infrastructure in the Eastern European nation has been damaged, with more than 60 medical facilities having been attacked during the nearly one-month-old war, according to data from the World Health Organization, which warned March 14 that its hospitals were being stretched to the breaking point.

In response, St. Jude Global, a program that aims to improve worldwide survival rates of children with cancer, launched a humanitarian effort with Poland’s Fundacja Herosi and other organizations and foundations to help Ukrainian children fighting the disease, including evacuating them to countries that can offer them treatment.

According to the program, it has assisted more than 600 patients with services from translating medical records to coordinating convoys to a triage center in Poland where they are medically evaluated before being transported to cancer centers in Europe, Canada, and the United States.

“Our ability to quickly help so many children and their families in Ukraine is the work of many partners — individuals and institutions — dedicated to the shared vision of improving the quality of healthcare delivery and increasing survival rates of children with cancer and blood disorders worldwide,” said St. Jude Global Director Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo.

St. Jude said that these are the first four children to be brought to the United States as U.S. organizers have wanted to minimize disruptions to their patients’ lives by trying to keep them close to their home.

However, decreased clinical space and the advanced medical needs of the patients could require them to receive treatment farther away.

Price said that the Biden administration recognizes that these four children only represent a small portion of the thousands of people in Ukraine whose medical needs have been disrupted by the war.

“That is why, together with our allies and partners, we will continue to support our Ukrainian partners as we seek to save lives and bring this needless war to a close,” he said.

The announcement comes after Britain’s health secretary Sajid Javid confirmed on March 13 that they had received 21 “very ill Ukrainian children with cancer” through the effort.