Local boy battles aggressive form of leukemia

DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. – Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer, affecting approximately 4,000 children every year in the U.S.

When now-6-year-old Rocca Passaro was diagnosed in the summer of 2021, he was at the time like any child his age.

“He was your average 5-year-old, very intelligent, eager to go to school, eager to play and life was just simpler back then,” said his mom Ida Passaro.

It became extraordinarily complicated when he was diagnosed with B-Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

Although he failed the first round of chemotherapy, he beat the odds and was deemed cancer free in the fall of 2021.

After months of ups and downs, in September 2022, Rocco relapsed,

“Things have happened to him that science can’t explain,” his mom said.

Dr. Iftikhar Hanif, Chief of the Center of Cancer and Blood Disorders at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, is the head of Rocco’s medical team.

“Rocco presented with a very high white cell count so he was high risk leukemia to start with. Since he was high risk, we were trying new medicines and one of them he tolerated, but after that he developed a lot of complications,” Hanif said.

Now the only chance for long term survival is a bone marrow transplant.

“And while science is progressing and we hope that between now and transplant something else will come up, ultimately that is the most researched method for a childlike Rocco and his type of leukemia.  I need to know I’ve done everything in this world to save him,” Passaro said.

To learn more about being a bone marrow donor, and Rocco’s story, go to: https://my.bethematch.org/4Rocco

About the Authors:

Kristi Krueger has built a solid reputation as an award-winning medical reporter and effervescent anchor. She joined Local 10 in August 1993. After many years co-anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m., Kristi now co-anchors the noon newscasts, giving her more time in the evening with her family.

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.