Girl, 2, riddled with cancer tumours now in remission after pioneering treatment in U.S.
When Dawn and John MacGlashan had their baby twins in 2009 they were devastated to learn that while their daughter Molly was perfectly healthy, her sister Lilly had a devastating cancer.
The toddler has since spent her short existence fighting for the chance of a normal life and at one point was given just 24 hours to live.
But after being ‘written off’ by doctors in the UK when she relapsed following chemotherapy treatment, the toddler has celebrated her second birthday with her twin after undergoing pioneering treatment in America.
Sisters: Lilly MacGlashan (right) was born with a devastating cancer while her twin Molly was perfectly healthy
Lilly now has a much more promising prognosis after she was treated at the American cancer hospital that successfully treated actor Michael Douglas for throat cancer last year.
THE CHILDHOOD CANCER WITH NO KNOWN CURE
Neuroblastoma is a rare cancer of the nervous system that affects around 100 children in the UK and 600 children in the U.S. per year.
It is a solid tumour cancer that usually orginates in the adrenal gland tissue in the abdomen.
It is a childhood cancer that is rarely diagnosed in youngsters aged over 10.
Little is known about why is occurs or what may increase the risks of developing the condition.
An early symptom is a lump or swelling in the child’s abdomen that can cause pain and constipation.
There is no known cure. However, prognosis can be good if children are diagnosed before the age of five and it hasn't spread too far around the body.
Treatments include chemotherapy and radiotherapy to shrink the tumour/s and surgery is used to remove them. A number of clinical trials are being conducted on antibody treatments in the UK and U.S.
Sadly over half of patients who go into remission will relapse and chances of survival are then slimmer.
For more information visit the Neuroblastoma Alliance website
Scans have shown that where there were once ‘dozens and dozens’ of tumours in her brain, retina or spine, there is now no trace of the disease.
The toddler is now part-way through an antibody treatment designed to prevent the cancer from returning to her body and doctors have told her parents there is a 70 per cent chance she will remain free of the childhood cancer neuroblastoma.
Her mother, Dawn, 43, said: ‘At one point before we went to New York, the doctors told us Lilly was likely to die at home in the end. She was written off, but she has amazed everybody .
‘Lilly has had to fight so hard because the treatment is so bad. She is the only current documented case in the world with neuroblastoma in her retinas.'
Mrs MacGlashan and husband John, 47, estimate their daughter’s fight for life has cost around 500,000 on medical treatment and accommodation costs in New York City, where they have rented an apartment since Lilly’s treatment began in March.
The family have raised close to
300,000 after more than a year of fundraising events in their home town
of Dunstable, Bedfordshire, including marathon runs, sponsored swims
and charity music nights, but need all the help they can to raise the
balance of the cash.
MacGlashan added: ‘It’s the most awful thing to have to fundraise, but
when you have a child that’s fighting so hard it drives you on.’
Inseparable: 'Molly (left) cries a lot when Lilly is sick. But when Lilly is fine, Molly is too'
Lilly was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in her stomach at just six weeks old, after an 8cm tumour grew in her stomach. Doctors said the tumour was curable and removed it…only to discover later that the cancer had spread to her brain, spinal cord and both retinas.
Lilly was given high-dose chemotherapy at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge to shrink the new tumours, but her only real hope lay in an experimental antibody drug available only at a private cancer clinic in New York.
After Lilly’s case was highlighted in the Daily Mail in January, the family raised enough cash to head across the Atlantic to begin Lilly’s treatment at the private Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center(US spelling) in Manhattan, which is trialling the antibody drug called 8H9.
After a final course of chemotherapy, followed by radiation therapy to tackle what was left of the tumours, Lilly had a series of injections of 8H9 into the brain via a catheter implanted under the scalp, which rid the brain, spine and retinas of the remaining tiny specks of cancer which were too small for chemotherapy and radiation to shift.
Lilly is now part-way through a final course of antibodies aimed at expelling any microscopic cancer cells that may be present in the rest of her body.
Hopeful: Dawn and John said Lilly's (right) determined fight for life kept them fundraising
The MacGlashans returned home to the UK to celebrate the twins' second birthday in December, but will return to New York later this year so Lilly can complete her treatment.
Mrs MacGlashan, who gave up work as a mobile hairdresser when Lilly was diagnosed, added: ‘Molly has played such a big part in her fight. They have that bond you here about with twins – Molly cries a lot when Lilly is sick. But when Lilly is fine, Molly is too.
‘Once, when Lilly had an injection at Addenbrookes she screamed. Molly was staying in the family accommodation on site and at that very moment, she screamed too.’
Lilly has undergone pioneering treatment in the U.S
The devoted mother has three older children from a previous relationship.
Mr MacGlashan, a maintenance electrician, was allowed to take a year’s unpaid leave to allow him to accompany Lilly and the rest of the family to New York.
Lilly’s consultant in New York, Dr Kim Kramer, said neuroblastoma that came back in the brain was once considered a ‘lethal type of relapse’.
But Dr Kramer, an associate attending in paediatric neuro-oncology, said Lilly was proof of the ‘great strides’ that have been made in beating the disease.
She said: ‘Ten per cent of patients who have had bad neuroblastoma run the risk of it returning in the brain. When it does, it is usually one or two tumours, not dozens and dozens as Lilly had throughout her brain, spine and retinas.
‘We have made great progress and have treated plenty of children who have beaten this and gone on to live good lives without the cancer coming back anywhere in their bodies.
‘Lilly is doing great. Her scans are wonderful and she’s as adorable and active as her sister.’
The family still need to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds to continue Lily's treatment. Anyone wishing to donate to her fund should visit: www.virginmoneygiving.com/lillymacglashan
Donate by text message by texting LYLY33 and an amount up to 10 to 70070, for example text ‘LYLY33 10’ and send it to 70070