New drug life-changing for young cancer patient from Claresholm

By Geoff Smith (@GeoffSmithLNN on Twitter)
December 2, 2018 - 8:00am

CLARESHOLM – “It’s changed his life, for sure, and ours.”

A drug approved Nov. 28 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has the potential to do for people with certain cancers what it’s already done for nine-year-old Ashton Leeds of Claresholm. Every month Ashton travels to Seattle Children’s Hospital for a regular checkup, and to receive his medication: Vitrakvi, or larotrectinib. Ashton’s father Shayne Leeds says since he began taking the drug during its clinical trial, over the past year, he’s regained his energy and has no major side effects.

Shayne recounts the story: Ashton was first diagnosed with thyroid cancer four years ago. From the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, it was off to Toronto for surgery to remove his tumour, followed by radioactive iodine treatment back in Calgary.

The growth of the cancer was halted – temporarily. But when he started having trouble breathing, it was back for more tests, and cancer had spread to his lungs. But samples of his tumour had been stored following his surgery in Toronto.

“After they recognized the gene that Ashton had, the mutation, they had come across an article out of Seattle Children’s Hospital for some drug testing that they were doing, that was the same as what he had,” Shayne Leeds tells LethbridgeNewsNOW. “So, they proceeded to start talking with the children’s hospital in Seattle.”

The drug is used to inhibit the growth of solid tumours with a certain type of genetic mutation, and it turned out Ashton met the criteria. He’ll continue to travel monthly to Seattle.

“Ashton’s prognosis is looking good. He still has some cancerous cells that they can see, but they’re not real measurable,” his father said. “They don’t know how much there is right at the moment.”

When the drug was approved, the story was told on the ABC-TV program “Good Morning America” with the Leeds family front-and-centre. Shayne Leeds hopes it will help reach other patients who could be helped by the drug.  

He’s also grateful for the support back home in Claresholm and from the hospitals in Alberta since the initial diagnosis.

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