Biggest Growth Spurt of 24 inches In 3 Months by 12 Year Old Boy from Hodgkin’s Chemotherapy Treatment
Recently I have been reading the Pulitzer Prize Winner book on the history of cancer called “The Emperor of All Maladies” by Siddhartha Mukherjee. My cousin which has been trained as an oncologist recommend the book to me and I finally managed to buy the Audible.com version of the book from Amazon and have been spending about hours in the last few days of traveling in Airports and Planes listening to this incredible story on how physicians for the last few millennia have been fighting against this most difficult of diseases.
Some surprising figures I would learn is that 1 out of every 3 people in the USA would be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life. Every year about 3 million people die from the disease in the world but the CDC reports that it is probably closer to 8 million people die from some version of Cancer each year. The struggle of doctors to fight and try to win this war against cancer is probably going be the defining medical endeavor for our generation, if not this century.
Maybe during the 19th century and the early 20th century, the focus of physicians was on finding ways to fight against infectious diseases like TB, Smallpox, Polio, and Influenza, those type of diseases caused by the bacteria or parasites have been taken care of ever since the advent of Penicillin and various other vaccinations. The defining types of disorders that are affecting this new generation is going to be degenerative diseases as man kind learn how to extend his life expectancy from 65 to maybe to double that. Our great-grandparents didn’t have to worry about Osteoporosis, Arthritis, High Blood Pressure, or Alzeheimers as much as us since their life expectancy was not as long as ours will be. Cancer will be the other major type of disease which we will have to deal with.
Our Main Point
In a certain passage of the audible book Dr. Mukherjee mentioned that after one case of cancer remission for a boy which had his weight reduced greatly to just 50 lbs by cancer, the 12 year old boy managed to grow 2 feet within 3 months after the oncologists managed to find the right type of chemical compound, (usually a type of anti-folate derivative) to stall the multiplication and spread of the cancer cells in his system. In addition, His weight increased by 50%, which does not seem like a lot since a 50% increase from 50 lbs is just 25 lbs to a total of 75 lbs.
(Read the clipping we did of the PDF of the audio book on the right. It was under the chapter called “An Army On The March“)
This type of story is the strangest which I have ever heard of any growth spurts. It is definitely the biggest growth spurt which I have ever heard off. To grow 2 feet in 3 months would mean that the kid would be growing at around over 1/4 inch every single day!!!
Of course we have to remind ourselves that this is a 12 year old boy we are talking about but this rate is still insane to comprehend.
I am not sure how it is possible that a person can grow that fast, even if we take into account catch up growth. I personally would suspect that after his 3 months of intense height increase, the growth plates probably completely ossified, due to over extension of the process in the cartilage.
(It seems that the growth plates, just like almost every other system/unit in the body that has not been infected by cancer has a natural negative feedback loop controller if one variable becomes too high. This is known collectively as Homeostasis. If you over exert the growth plates, they will go through bone maturity at a faster rate. If your growth is stunted, the senescence of the growth plates actually slows down, leading to catch-up growth after the inhibitory effect is removed. It seems that maybe the chondrocytes in the resting zone have some type of internal, intrinsic rate at which they can replicate and enlarge before some receptor or protein in the ECM causes them to stop.)
We have written before a few times about how catch up growth works.
While we were studying the longitudinal diurnal growth patterns of the tibia, we found that the long bones don’t grow in any type of linear pattern, or even predictable variable and/or intermittent pattern. (For Reference, read “Modulation of vertebral and tibial growth by compression loading: diurnal versus full-time loading“). They go through what can only be described as micro-growth spurts which were irregular . We realized from looking at the pattern on how major growth spurts work, there are certain short durations of time where the hypertrophy process of the chondrocytes seem to go crazy.
The Possible Case and the Growth Curve
What we speculate, without going into the deep research to find the exact case, is that based on the growth curve provided by the pamphlets created annually by WHO (World Health Organization) and the NIH (National Institute of Health) that before the treatment, the boy would probably have been around 3 feet tall. Let’s remember what we learned from previous posts before where we both uploaded and analyzed the charts provided by both the CDC and the WHO.
The average (median, NOT mean) American 12 year old boy would be around 150 cm tall with a 1 standard deviation range of 7-8 cm. The information was obtained by typing in the term “Average Height of 12 Year Old Boy” into the Wolfram Alpha Search Engine. (Based on the 2000 CDC Report).
In addition, the average weight (we are again talking about median) would be 40 kg, with an uneven distribution bell curve. It would range as high as 50 kg or as low as 34 kg.
We assume that the boy did not have Hodgkin’s his whole life, but only developed it probably in the last 2-3 years. That meant that his growth would have been stunted only within the last 3-5 years, although there might have been a few cancer cells in his system before that. From what I can personally remember about this particular type of cancer, which is usually called Lymphoma, it is one of the few cancers which is not too fatal and people who get it treated early enough can have a very high life expectancy past diagnosis.
Since the growth rate per year for an American boy between the ages of say 7-12 or 9-12 is about 2-3 inch/year and also correct that for the factor that increased bump in linear growth in long bones for puberty, we would guess that his height around the age of 12 was stunted by around 10-13 inches of height. Obviously the body was trying to catch up.
If this boy did not have his height stunted, the 2 extra feet of height would have pushed him to be almost 7 feet tall. If we we assume that this boy at the age of 12 was about the 12-13 inches shorter than average, which is at 150 cm (or 4′ 11″), than his increase of 2 feet would put his final height to be around 6 feet tall. Of course, that would still seem a little ridiculous. It is hard for us to imagine a 12 and a half year old boy who has been suffering for a few years from Hodgkin’s growing to the height of 6 feet tall. We probably won’t be provided private information about that boy who lived in the early 20th Century, but we guess that if we are to assume that his height was dramatically stunted to less than 4 feet, then his growth to a final adult height (assuming the boy lived to adulthood) would not seem so extreme.
The case of this boy who at the age of 12 with stunted growth growing 24 inches in height in 3 months shows that the potential for increased bone longitudinal growth is much higher than I would have ever predicted. Could we possibly use a mechanism to stunt our growth at the later stages of bone maturity (ages 16-18) for an extra push in bone longitudinal growth to reach a higher adult height from the rebounding effect of catch-up growth?