Check out the latest news about proton therapy: this week, find out how this state-of-the-art treatment modality is helping patients from around the world fight aggressive forms of cancer and giving them hope for a better future.
YOUNG CANCER PATIENT GETS BRAVERY AWARD
The courage of Sam Addison, a 3-year-old toddler from England who is being treated for an inoperable brain tumor, has been recognized with a special award from Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens.
Sam was diagnosed with astrocytoma just under a year ago. It was revealed when his parents noticed his left side was weaker than his right, and a scan revealed an inoperable 5cm by 5cm tumor in his brain. His dad said: “The doctors broke the news that his tumor is inoperable, removing it would cause far too much damage and leave him with no quality of life. However, they said he fits the criteria for Proton Therapy at the age of 8. We have been told to keep a close eye on him and watch for any new symptoms as he will start chemotherapy should it show signs of change.” Sam, who calls his tumor “Naughty Bean”, has had lots of tests, a biopsy on his brain and regular physiotherapy sessions to help with his movement, as it’s painful for him to use his left arm or to walk far. “After hospital appointments he asks us if they’ve taken away his naughty bean. He is too young to understand it all, ” his dad said. Now, for the bravery he has shown during his treatment, he has received Cancer Research UK’s Kids & Teens Star Award. His dad nominated him for the award and says his son has never complained during treatment. “When Sam received the award, I explained to him that it was from his doctors for being so brave while in hospital, he loved it and was carrying it around for some time as he was proud of his little star”, he said. The Cancer Research UK Kids & Teens spokesperson said: “Sam is a true ‘star’ who really deserves this accolade.”
13-YEAR-OLD WITH UNCONTROLLABLE WEIGHT GAIN BEGINS PROTON THERAPY
Alexis Shapiro is a 13-year-old girl from Texas, USA, who has been struggling with hypothalamic obesity, learned in October that her craniopharyngoma had grown back.
First diagnosed with the benign tumor in 2011, Alexis underwent an operation to remove it and emerged with a damaged hypothalamus, the part of the brain that controls when a person feels hungry or full. Within months she developed hypothalamic obesity, a rare, irreversible condition that caused her to gain weight uncontrollably. She put on 68kg in two-and-a-half years, weighing 113kg by the time she was 12. Despite extreme attempts to lower her weight through diet and exercise, nothing worked and her parents were afraid for her life. A sleeve gastrectomy in 2014 improved her health dramaticall, and she had a gastric bypass in 2015 to continue her progress. The family thought they were out of the woods until a routine MRI earlier this year showed that the tumor was back. The Shapiros applied to be part of a proton therapy study at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “Alexis was so scared,” her mom said, “She did not want another surgery. Alexis spent 2 weeks in Memphis at St. Jude’s main campus undergoing tests, MRIs and PET scans before heading to an affiliated hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, where the proton therapy machine is located. Three months after Alexis completes treatment, she will return to St. Jude for evaluation, although it could take up to 2 years before its full effects are realized. But that is hope enough for the Shapiros. “If it works, there is an 80% chance of it not coming back,” her mom said. “And Alexis has been such a trooper, So brave!”
“DYE MY HAIR SILVER BEFORE I LOSE IT”
Beth Semikin, a 22-year-old woman who was diagnosed last June with sarcoma, a rare form of aggressive cancer in her back, is looking for a hairdresser to dye her locks silver before she loses it from chemotherapy treatment.
Beth was diagnosed on her mum’s 50th birthday just after finishing her third year university physics exams. Her cancer, which left her barely unable to walk and made her endure months of severe pain, was initially missed in an MRI in February and then finally spotted last June, but was thought to be benign. She had an operation to remove most of it, but later tests found it was malignant, and it then grew back to be double the size. In September, a doctor told her if the tumor in her lower back was inoperable, she would only have a 25% chance of survival, but luckily surgeons were able to remove the entire tumor in an 11-hour operation. Beth is now receiving proton beam therapy in Jacksonville, Florida. The NHS has paid for her and her mother to stay for the full 11 weeks in Florida where she has half an hour treatment, 5 days a week. Her brother and her dad will also be visiting for Christmas. A month after returning from the UF Proton Center in February, Beth will begin chemotherapy, and she hopes a hairdresser can color her hair grey before it starts to fall out. “I’ve always wanted to have silver hair,” she said. “So now it’s falling out I figured I may as well do something I wanted to do to it anyway.” The future is looking bright for Beth, who hopes to get the all clear in the next few years after 18 weeks chemotherapy. “I have a good prognosis. I’m so lucky as they don’t think it’s spread anywhere.”