Cancer treatment is never one size fits all. Access to research and clinical trials is critical for patients — for children — like Ashton and Gabby.
Ashton was only five years old when he was diagnosed with stage IV thyroid cancer. His diagnosis came as a shock – thyroid cancer is unusual and very rare in children, especially with the level of progression that was found in Ashton’s body. His treatment involved a difficult surgery to remove the tumours, and multiple doses of radioactive iodine therapy. While Ashton resumed normal life for a couple of years, the initial treatments were ultimately unsuccessful.
Luckily for Ashton, he had access to an incredible care team of doctors, surgeons, oncologists and endocrinologists who immediately began exploring alternate treatment options. His doctor found a new clinical trial using a drug called larotrectinib, and through the perseverance of his team, Ashton was enrolled on the trial. Suddenly, a new lifeline opened for Ashton.
Last October, Ashton’s scan showed a dramatic difference and a reduction of his cancer. His family is elated to see him back to himself again – an active, 11 year old boy who loves gaming, soccer and horseback riding.
Stories like Ashton’s are the driving purpose for Childhood Cancer Canada, a foundation dedicated to creating victories for Canadian children with cancer through investment in lifesaving research, education and community programs.
Since 2006, the foundation has been the primary charitable funding partner for C17 Council, an organization that focuses on improving outcomes and quality of life for children and adolescents in Canada with cancer and blood disorders.
Like Ashton, Gabby was a fun and bouncy child. She loved baking, reading, and spending time with her big sister. Just after her fourth birthday, Gabby experienced heart failure, a symptom of leukemia. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and considered high-risk because of her extremely high white blood cell count.
Gabby went through two years of intense chemotherapy, before a routine procedure uncovered leukemia cells in her central nervous system. Gabby’s doctors suggested a clinical trial with the Children’s Oncology Group, which would introduce a new immunotherapy medication called blinatumomab.
Gabby was the first child in Canada to join the clinical trial and receive the treatment. With blinatumomab, her quality of life quickly improved – she was active, energetic, and had an appetite. She was able to go to school and visit with friends, and she appeared to have the quality of life of a healthy child. Access to quality care changed Gabby’s life – she’s been off medication and in remission since 2017.