A local boy currently receiving treatment for leukemia in Alberta has shown some positive signs after treatment with a new drug.
Connor McGrath, 13, has been in the news periodically over the past several months as hopes for his recovery have see-sawed while health experts have attempted to treat Connor through various means.
Although it is still early stages, a new drug he is on is showing signs of working against his cancer.
After receiving immunotherapy drug for several weeks, Laina Adams, a family friend, says that Connor’s cancer has decreased by 13 per cent in the bone marrow and from 81 per cent to six per cent in the blood.
Connor was diagnosed in July of 2013. He had not responded well to other treatments. There was a large push to raise funds for Connor to be able to get an $800,000 treatment not covered by Health Canada due to its experimental nature. Through various fundraising endeavours, people worked to raise the money so Connor could receive the chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy in the United States.
Connor also made headlines recently when internationally famous Canadian actor, Ryan Reynolds, visited him in hospital and gave him a special advanced screening of his new film “Deadpool” weeks before it was released to theatres.
In February the family announced it was suspending all fundraising efforts as the boy’s health had deteriorated to the point that the experimental T-cell therapy treatment was not an option. If Connor responds well enough to the drug he’s on now, that could change.
The drug, while covered by Health Canada, had to be flown in from India. The three tests prior to Connor being on the drug showed an increase in cancer cells. It’s only been since he’s on it that there have been signs of a cancer decrease.
“So this is fantastic news,” Adams told The Telegram through email correspondence.
While the initial results are positive, family and friends are well aware of how much longer the road ahead is.
“This drug was a long shot, but it is definitely showing promising results on improving Connor’s disease,” said Adams.
Connor takes the immunotherapy drug once a week and, to date, has had it four times. After another two weeks of treatment, he will be retested again.
“While we know this drug is definitely working for Connor and decreasing the cancer. Remission status won’t be known until this drug is complete and Connor’s marrow is tested again,” Adams told The Telegram.
If Connor can reach remission, he can receive a bone marrow transplant in Calgary. If the drug doesn’t bring him to remission but still improves his health to a certain point, the $800,000 chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy that he will have to travel to the United States to receive could again become an option.
“There is improvement in him every day,” Adams said of the boy’s health.
“Connor has gone from bed-ridden on oxygen, not eating in hospital, to being at home, starting to eat, and (having) energy with no oxygen.”
There has been more than $150,000 raised for Connor to possibly travel to the U.S. for treatment that has been put on hold for the time being.
“The efforts of everyone, Canada-wide, is heart-warming to say the least,” Adams said.
In addition to her efforts with Connor, Adams is also currently creating a registered, non-profit #TeamConnor foundation that will be specifically used to help children in similar situations to Connor. That will target children who require life-saving treatment outside of the country who will not be able to receive financial help from the government.
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