Boy becomes first person in world to be cured of deadly brain cancer

A 13 -year-old boy from Belgium has become the first person in the world to be cured of a deadly brain cancer.

At the age of six, Lucas Jemeljanova was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), a very rare and extremely aggressive brain tumour.

Roughly 300 children a year are diagnosed with DIPG, which is typically found in children between the ages of five and nine.

Around 98 per cent of those diagnosed with DIPG die within five years but the average survival after diagnosis is nine months.

Lucas’s parents decided to take him to France to be enrolled in a clinical trial testing new potential treatments for DIPG. The BIOMEDE trial saw him receive a chemotherapy drug called everolimus. This is usually used to treat cancers in the kidneys, pancreas, breast and brain, but has never been used successfully to treat DIPG.

But Lucas responded surprisingly well to the treatment, and over time the tumour disappeared.

Seven years on from his diagnosis, the teenager now has no trace of the cancer and has been in remission for five years.
Doctor Jacques Grill, head of the brain tumor program at the Gustave Roussy cancer center in Paris, said Lucas “beat all the odds’ and that his recovery “offers real hope” to others.

Doctors didn’t want to stop the treatment regimen in case the cancer returned. When they did eventually decided Lucas could stop the treatment a year and a half ago, it turned out he’d already stopped taking the drugs.

Dr Grill told AFP: “I didn’t know when to stop, or how, because there was no reference in the world.

“Over a series of MRI scans, I watched as the tumor completely disappeared.”

Doctors are yet to work out why Lucas responded so well to the treatment, and he was the only participant in the trial to see their tumour completely disappear.

Dr Grill suggested that Lucas’s miracle recovery could have been down to “biological particularities” in the tumour though, and researchers are now trying to reproduce the difference seen in Lucas’s cells.

“Lucas is believed to have had a particular form of the disease,” Dr Grill said.

“We must understand what and why to succeed in medically reproducing in other patients what happened naturally with him.”

You can find out more about DIPG by visiting The Brain Tumour Charity here.

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