Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping young cancer patients from all over the world in their fight against cancer.
PARENTS CALLING FOR EYE CHECK-UPS
Parents from Newport in the UK stress the importance of checking for eye health in children after their 3-year-old daughter was diagnosed with cancer.
In October last year, Helen and Matt Harris noticed a milky colour in the eye of their daughter Ella, and took her to an optician. “We weren’t expecting it to be cancer. It just shook our entire world. You don’t ever want that to happen to your child,” Helen said. They were referred to the hospital where they received the devastating news Ella had retinoblastoma, a rare form of eye cancer which affects the retina of children aged under five. Both of her eyes were affected, but the situation being worse in the left one, it had to be taken out. Ella now has a prosthetic left eye and is receiving chemotherapy and laser therapy. She will also head for proton beam therapy at a specialist hospital in Germany. Her parents said they were keen to highlight the symptoms of retinoblastoma to others. “There are key things to look for,” Helen said. Signs of retinoblastoma include an unusual white reflection in the pupil that might be apparent in photos, a squint, a change in the colour of the iris, a red or inflamed eye and poor vision. “If you see anything that’s a little strange then go see someone. Normally children don’t get eye tests until they are about five, so we are lucky that the optician would see us.” The couple are both on leave from work while they come to terms with their daughter’s condition.
8-YEAR-OLD NEEDS COMMUNITY’S HELP
The parents of Karalyn Giron-Plante, an 8-year-old girl from Richmond in Canada who was recently diagnosed with a rare brain tumor, are reaching out to the community for a helping hand.
Kara was recently diagnosed with ependymoma after suffering from blinding headaches amongst a myriad of confusing symptoms. In early January, surgeons removed all they could of this potentially lethal tumor. Ependymomas are usually tumors arising from the cells that line the brain’s fluid-filled cavities and can be associated with unfavorable outcomes. For that reason the family hopes to use all possible methods for mopping up any tumor cells still lurking in Karalyn’s brain. Doctors are hoping to do so using a leading-edge type of treatment called proton therapy in the USA. The treatment in Seattle is planned for later this month, but first Kara must undergo a genetic test. If she carries a specific gene, then the proton therapy treatment won’t help her. If that happens, the family will need to consider alternative therapies. Juan and Katelyn will need help to cover expenses both in the US as well as back in Richmond for things like out-of-school care for Kara’s siblings. In the event the US trip is cancelled, Katelyn would like to use the funds for alternative medicines. In the event Kara is miraculously cured, then Katelyn plans to earmark the funds to cancer research.
7-YEAR-OLD SEEING BETTER RESULTS WITH PT
Bella Bush’s fight against brain cancer goes back to 2013, when she was only two years old. After 3 different chemo regimens that did little to shrink the tumor, she is now seeing better results thanks to proton therapy.
Since the beginning of her fight against cancer, Bella has always seemed playful and happy, even when going through chemo. “There were times she would vomit, throw up, be lethargic, low blood count, all the typical things that come with chemo therapy,” said her father Josh. But chemo did little to shrink her tumor. Now aged 7, Bella is seeing better results from a precise radiation called proton beam therapy. Bella spent almost 7 weeks at St. Jude Hospital last summer, going through 29 rounds of the radiation. The equipment, similar to an MRI, can be intimidating, even for an adult, but “she’s the youngest child at St. Jude to do this radiation awake without sedation,” her father said with pride. Bella was never scared, even though she had to lay still for 30 minutes, wearing a protective mask over her head. Other than losing a patch of hair on both sides of her head, she did not suffer any side effects, like during chemo. The proton beam did shrink Bella’s tumor, and doctors will check her progress again at the end of March. “They are not expecting the tumor to ever go away,” said Josh. “They’re just hoping the proton beam actually destroys the DNA of the tumor.” That would stop the tumor from ever-growing again and allow Bella to grow even more carefree.