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Behind the Scenes

Family Matters - Fall 2008

Who is... Pete Anderson?

By: Sara Farris

Vote with your feet. That’s the maxim Pete Anderson, M.D., Ph.D., lives by as professor at the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Talking about something isn’t enough, he says, which is why this pediatric oncologist goes the extra mile for his patients… literally.

The Minnesota native often travels outside the doors of M. D. Anderson to be there for his patients. On his day off, he drove to Victoria, Texas, for a community fundraiser benefiting a patient. He went ice-skating one afternoon with a patient who, until that outing, was too shy to speak a word to anyone on her medical team.

Anderson also attends many Children’s Cancer Hospital events and volunteers his time at Camp A.O.K. each summer. This year he made the scene on the slopes at the annual Children’s Art Project Rehabilitation Ski Trip.

“I want my patients to understand that they’re capable of doing more than they think, and the camps and ski trip help them realize that,” Anderson says. “It’s important for me to develop a mindset in my patients that they are going to do better and better — something I like to call ‘achieving the art of the possible.’ ”
Turning ideas into reality is what Anderson is all about. While a faculty member at the Mayo Clinic, he started the bone marrow transplant program and developed new treatments using bone-seeking radioisotopes and aerosol cytokines. In 2005, he came to the Children’s Cancer Hospital to take on another challenge: improving the survival rate of children with bone tumors and metastases. Currently, he has a trial open using aerosol chemotherapy for patients with pulmonary metastases, which has resulted in fewer side effects and toxicities.

“My goal is to make bone sarcoma treatment more effective with fewer side effects. I hope one day patients can go to school without their peers even knowing they have cancer,” Anderson says.
Anderson has been in the field for more than 20 years and he never stops looking for better ways to care for his patients. Recently, he proposed an idea for the Children’s Cancer Hospital Family-Centered Care Committee, suggesting that patients be given flash drives containing their updated medical information for use by their home physician or in case of emergency. Now other sections are piloting the project at the Children’s Cancer Hospital.

His out-of-the-box style translates to his personal life as well. An avid outdoorsman, Anderson loves kayaking (even with the alligators near his home on Lake Olympia), canoeing, water and snow skiing, windsurfing, cycling and running. He’s also learning Spanish at his church so he can better communicate with some of his patients. Most of all, Anderson loves spending time with his family. He credits them for supporting him and helping him better relate to his patients and their families.   “I understand the protective relationship between parent and child, and I know it’s important that our patients feel valued,” Anderson says. “I see myself as a catalyst, helping my patients get through the rough spots while giving them courage and self-esteem in the process.”

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