Toddler with 40% chance of surviving beyond age five fights for game-changing cancer vaccine | UK news

Train-obsessed toddler Teddy has only a 40% chance of surviving his fifth birthday.

A three-year-old who has charmed nurses and doctors in hospitals across the UK is battling one of the most aggressive – and rare – forms of childhood cancer.

But for kids like Teddy, there is the possibility of long-term remission in the form of a “life-saving” cancer vaccine. It’s currently only available in the US, but there’s a chance a game-changing hit could hit the UK.

There are fewer than 100 cases of neuroblastoma a year in the UK, and the cancer is most common in children under five.

The treatment is a grueling regimen of surgery, stem cell transplants, immunotherapy and chemotherapy. We hope that when this is over – scheduled for November – the disease will be in remission.

The next step would be a vaccine to keep him from coming back because if Teddy has a relapse his chances of survival drop to just 5%.

Teddy in the hospital
Teddy in the hospital

How does the cancer vaccine work?

While a cancer vaccine appears to be a work of science fiction, the results of the early stages of research are promising.

Described as a ‘maintenance option’, it does not cure the disease but is given to patients in remission. It works by inducing the patient’s immune response to produce its own anti-GD2 antibodies, which then find and attach to remaining neuroblastoma cells, preventing the cancer from coming back and spreading again in the body.

“It would have not only short-term effects, but real potential long-term immunity to cancer,” said Katherine Lichten, Teddy’s mum.

The treatment, currently in phase two trials at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, is the only pediatric cancer vaccine in existence.

For Liam Scott, it really saved his life. after being was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the age of threeand after months of self-treatment, he received the vaccine.

In 2022, three years after that terrible day of diagnosis, his parents proudly announced that they cancer free and thriving.

And Vicky Inglis, head of family support services at Solving Kids Cancer, said she is still in remission to this day.

“This gives hope to those families who have chosen to take advantage of this option,” she said.

But the cost of getting a trial of the vaccine is not cheap, and the Lichten family is currently raising £250,000 to pay for it.

Teddy on a specially organized trip in the first subway car
Teddy on a specially organized trip in the first subway car

A comprehensive treatment regime

“Katherine’s whole world has been turned upside down” when Teddy, who initially feared surgery for appendicitis, is diagnosed with a cancerous tumor that has spread to his hips, spine and bone marrow.

Since his diagnosis in June 2022, Teddy has had six rounds of induction chemotherapy, a stem cell harvest, high-dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

He still faces another round of high-dose chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, before a potential surgery and 12 sessions of radiation therapy.

His first-line treatment will culminate in six months of immunotherapy.

Read more:
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Only then will Teddy be eligible for the vaccine, which he must receive within a month of completing his immunotherapy – not enough time for the family to finish fundraising and get him shipped to the US.

“Our absolute worst nightmare is relapse and losing Teddy,” Katherine said.

Three-year-old Teddy is obsessed with trains
Three-year-old Teddy is obsessed with trains

Healing “like being hit on the head with a bag of bricks”

Families forced to seek potentially life-changing treatment abroad face an impossible choice – raise the staggering amount of money required or face the loss of their children.

While the Lichten family raised an impressive £24,000 within days of launch fundraising pagerealize they still have a long way to go.

Katherine said: “When Teddy was first diagnosed, like every mum of millennials, I browsed the internet and came across the news of this vaccine pretty quickly. My first reaction was that we have to do this.”

But she said the reality of the treatment soon hit them.

“You feel like you’ve been hit over the head with a bag of bricks and can barely think of getting out of bed in the morning, let alone raising such a huge amount.”

But after a few weeks at home with Teddy, during a break from his treatment, the family had the space to decide that now was the right time to move abroad.


Can the vaccine reach the UK?

There is a chance the vaccine will reach the UK and across Europe, and Solving Kids Cancer is lobbying the UK government to have it tested in the country.

“It’s a huge amount of money and a huge amount of stress when you have a sick child,” said Vicky from the charity. “So being able to have an international trial where a center is open here in the UK would be just amazing.”

At the moment, some parents are choosing not to seek treatment abroad: “Parents have a choice to access this maintenance option because it’s just not proven and the problem with that is the NHS can’t fund something that has not been proven.”

Katherine said that while it will be too late for Teddy, she will be happy with the families that will come after them.

“I’m really deeply convinced that this vaccine has great potential to save children’s lives,” she said.

“And if it could be tested internationally on enough children, you could get significant results that could prove it categorically works.

“And then to become part of the NHS treatment would be fantastic. Maybe the parents of children diagnosed with it in a few years might not have to do what we’re doing.”

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