The boy who was cured of a brain tumor


Image for illustrative purposes only.

(AFP)- The cure, unique in the world, of a child with a glioma in the brain stem – one of the deadliest types of pediatric brain cancer – gives hope to French scientists.

Despite advances in childhood cancer treatments, This tumor, which affects between 50 and 100 children and adolescents each year in France, It is a real challenge for doctors.

Although the five-year survival rate for childhood cancer is 85%, some of them, such as brainstem glioma, tThey have a very bad prognosis.

This cancer, inoperable, It is normally treated with radiotherapy, which can sometimes slow the progression of the disease, but whose effect is temporary. There is still no medication that is completely effective.

The evolution is very rapid and many times the fatal outcome occurs between 9 and 12 months after the tumor is detected.

A Belgian boy, Lucas, who is currently 13 years old, broke all these predictions: After being diagnosed with this practically incurable disease at the age of 6, today he is considered cured and his brain does not show any sign of the tumor.

“Lucas shattered all the life meters”explains his doctor, Jacques Grill, pilot of the brain tumor program at the pediatric oncology department of the Gustave-Roussy center in the south of Paris.

– “Biological peculiarities” –

The pediatrician still remembers with emotion the moment he announced seven years ago to Lucas’ parents that their son was going to die.

The family had traveled to France to treat him, and the boy He was one of the first patients to take part in a clinical trial to test a new medicinea targeted therapy.

From the start, Lucas responded very well to the treatment. “Throughout the MRIs, I saw the tumor disappear completely,” explains Dr. Grill, who did not dare, despite these exceptional results, to stop the treatment. Until he saw, a year and a half ago, that the child himself had stopped taking it.

“I don’t know of any case like yours in the world,” says the doctor, whose team began researching this cancer about 15 years ago.

Now it remains to understand why Lucas was cured and how his case could bring hope to hundreds of sick young people.

A dozen other children in the clinical trial saw their life expectancy exceed statistics and are still alive several years after diagnosis. But his cancer has not completely disappeared.

The greater life expectancy is undoubtedly due to the “biological peculiarities of your tumor”, says Dr. Grill, to explain his improved response to treatment.

– “Long-term work” –

“Lucas’ tumor had an extremely rare mutation and we think that it is this mutation that made their tumor cells much more sensitive to the drug,” adds the pediatrician.

In an ongoing trial (Biomède), which compares the drug Lucas received with a new treatment, Gustave-Roussy researchers study not only the genetic abnormalities of all patients’ tumors but also make tumor organoids, three-dimensional copies of patient tumors performed in the laboratory, to analyze their biology and their reaction to treatments.

“Lucas’ case offers real hope: We are going to try to reproduce in vitro the alterations that we identified in your cells“explains Marie-Anne Debily, who supervises these studies.

The medical teams want to see if the DNA alterations that Lucas presented, once “reproduced” in other patients, also translate into a reduction in his tumor.

If that’s the case, “The next stage will be to find the drug that has the same effect on the tumor cells as these cellular modifications”Debily details.

Doctors, enthusiastic about this new “therapeutic track,” warn It will be years before a possible effective treatment is found.

“On average, 10 or 15 years pass between the track and the medicine, it is a long-term job,” Grill recalls.

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