Boy, 9, dying of cancer has new hope after miracle drug newly-approved in the US

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Boy, 9, dying of cancer has new hope after miracle drug newly-approved in the US
Boy, 9, dying of cancer has new hope after miracle drug newly-approved in the US

A child with cancer has found hope again thanks to a new drug inhibiting cancer growth newly-approved in the US.

The newly-approved cancer drug called Vitrakvi (larotrectinib) has brought hope to many cancer patients, including a 9-year-old boy named Ashton Leeds who had stage 4 thyroid cancer. After undergoing surgeries and traditional treatments that were unsuccessful, Ashton's cancer became resistant to therapy.

However, he was able to participate in a clinical trial for Vitrakvi, which targets a specific genetic mutation found in certain cancers. The drug inhibits the protein responsible for cancer growth in these tumours.

The FDA approved Vitrakvi after it was studied in three clinical trials involving 176 cancer patients with the specific genetic mutation (NTRK). Ashton's health significantly improved after taking Vitrakvi, and although he is not fully cured, his prognosis is hopeful. The drug works effectively for patients with the applicable mutation and has shown promising results in other cases.

Boy, 9, dying of cancer has new hope after miracle drug newly-approved in the US eideziqkeiqhhinvAshton Leeds, a 9-year-old boy diagnosed with stage 4 thyroid cancer, received traditional treatments (Good Morning America WS)

Ashton's parents, Kayley Leeds and Shayne Leeds, expressed their gratitude and hope for their son's future after he received treatment with Vitrakvi (larotrectinib). Ms Leeds mentioned that the drug had been the best thing that happened to them in the last couple of years. It gave them hope for Ashton's future, and they felt that everything was going to be okay.

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Mr Leeds told Good Morning America: "The worst moment was probably seeing him after he had surgery and seeing him hooked up to all the machines."

Although Ashton is not completely cured, his prognosis is now considered hopeful, thanks to the positive results they observed after he started taking Vitrakvi.

Boy, 9, dying of cancer has new hope after miracle drug newly-approved in the USThe cancer progressed, becoming resistant to therapy and causing distress for his family (Ashton’s Army/Facebook)

Dr Katie Albert, a pediatric oncologist at Seattle Children's Hospital, explained that Vitrakvi (larotrectinib) specifically targets a change in the DNA of tumor cells for certain types of cancer. The drug is designed to inhibit the protein responsible for cancer growth in these tumours.

She highlighted that traditional chemotherapy targets the machinery in cells that help them divide, but Vitrakvi focuses on the genetic mutation found in the tumour cells, which means it should primarily affect the tumour cells and not normal cells.

Vitrakvi is expected to provide new hope for thousands of patients like Ashton. The out-of-pocket costs for most patients should be $20 or less per month, and if the medication doesn't show results within the first three months of use, Bayer (the manufacturer) will refund the cost.

Boy, 9, dying of cancer has new hope after miracle drug newly-approved in the USLast spring, hope arrived when Ashton joined a clinical trial for Vitrakvi, a newly-approved drug (Ashton’s Army/Facebook)
Boy, 9, dying of cancer has new hope after miracle drug newly-approved in the USAfter participating in the trial, Ashton's health significantly improved, providing newfound hope (Ashton’s Army/Facebook)

Potential side effects reported by patients in clinical trials include fatigue, nausea, cough, constipation, diarrhoea, dizziness, vomiting, and increased AST and ALT enzyme blood levels in the liver. This medication is available for both adults and children and requires a prescription from a doctor. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid taking Vitrakvi due to potential harm to the foetus or newborn.

Clinical trials are essential for testing new drugs like Vitrakvi before they become widely available. People interested in participating can visit clinicaltrials.gov to find information on ongoing trials.

Vassia Barba

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