The money, the research is vital, because we want to try and minimise the impact that cancer treatment has.
- Jill, Huey’s mum
Unlike some newborns, Huey was a happy, content sleeper. But soon his demeanor changed and at just 10 weeks old, Huey was diagnosed with Stage 4S neuroblastoma after it was discovered that a 5cm tumour was impeding his breathing and had spread to his liver.
When Huey was born, his parents Jill and Lindsay knew what they were doing. They checked out of the hospital early and embarked on the journey of two kids, with older brother Leo two years old. Unlike many newborns, Huey was a happy and content sleeper, and things were looking like a nice, normal family.
From around six weeks old Huey’s demeanour changed. He wouldn’t put on any weight, he just remained stable, and he got more and more cranky. He was clingy, unsettled and a very noisy sleeper. He had started snoring. It became hard to get any happy time out of him during the day.
I put him down to sleep, and then within like five minutes you could just see him startle awake and just screaming, like high-pitched squeals… we knew something was wrong.
- Jill, Huey’s mum
Concerned about the changes, Jill took Huey to numerous health professionals and doctors before she was finally given a referral to see a paediatrician. It was there that a mass was detected on his neck and, after several tests, 10-week-old Huey was diagnosed with Stage 4S neuroblastoma. The primary 5cm tumour was impeding his breathing and had spread to his liver – causing it to swell to five times its normal size. Huey was in enormous amounts of pain and discomfort as the tumour pushed his organs down to his groin and there was a real risk of liver failure.
At just 10 weeks of age Huey began his first chemotherapy treatment. He would receive eight rounds of chemotherapy, one every three weeks. He also received countless blood transfusions to help him get through the treatment. After the eighth round of chemo, Huey had an MRI scan which showed that, while the tumour had shrunk significantly, he unfortunately still had tumour cells encasing his carotid artery – which is an inoperable area. His liver had returned to its normal size, but there were still spots of neuroblastoma, which – due to the highly sensitive area – also cannot be removed.
When you go in you’re totally oblivious to what you’re getting into. You put full faith in the research. People count on it.
- Lindsay, Huey’s dad
Jill, family and Huey’s team of doctors are currently monitoring his catecholamine levels monthly and he’s having a scan every three months to ensure the cancer doesn’t re-spread. While the outlook is positive the thought of the cancer coming back is always in the back of their mind.
In a world-first, our research recently discovered a way to disrupt cancer cell growth in neuroblastoma by looking at the relationship between the MYCN oncogene, long known to be increased in many high-risk tumours, and molecules known as polyamines. It is hoped this will offer a new and more effective way to target this devastating childhood cancer. Find out more.
This exciting new treatment approach warrants clinical investigation in children with MYCN-driven high-risk neuroblastoma, and potentially other cancers as well.
- Professor Michelle Haber AM