A five-year-old boy has returned from New York where he is participating in a groundbreaking medical study to prevent his cancer from returning.
West Yorkshire’s Oliver Stephenson received the all-clear earlier this year after battling neuroblastoma – a rare cancer that originates from immature nerve cells – in 2020.
His family crowdfunded £ 270,000 for treatment as the student underwent chemotherapy, surgery, stem cell treatment and a bone marrow transplant.
At one point, Oliver and his father James had to isolate together in a 15-square-meter hospital room for seven weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Oliver spent the last month at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center receiving a clinical trial vaccine called Bivalent.
Hopefully the treatment will train his immune system to identify and destroy lurking neuroblastoma cells in his body to prevent the disease from returning.
For the vaccine, which costs £ 210,000, Oliver will have to make four more trips to the United States this year.
He returned from the four-week trip to New York about a week ago with his mother Laura, father James, and little brother Alfie.
Ms. Stephenson said, “Everything went great. The doctors have all been fantastic and Oliver has responded well so far.
“It’s a clinical trial so we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we hope this will keep Oliver from suffering the way he did again.
“After everything he’s been through, it feels great to be on a positive path.”
She added that treatment was “quick and easy” and said Oliver had three vaccines and no obvious side effects other than a few discomforts.
Due to the length of her stay, Ms. Stephenson said the family would be able to turn the trip into a vacation.
She added, “Oliver and Alfie had a great time in New York, it was amazing.
“Because of the pandemic, it was very quiet everywhere, which meant that we felt very safe all the time and didn’t have to queue for anything.”
The groundbreaking treatment comes almost 18 months after Oliver is diagnosed with neuroblastoma, which affects around 100 children each year.
The coronavirus pandemic made the family’s ordeal more difficult as Oliver and his father had to isolate together in the hospital during chemotherapy.
Mr Stephenson was at his son’s bedside the entire time, but the rest of his family could not visit due to restrictions and had to be content with video calls.
Crowdfunding sites have been set up to help the family pay for treatment once the NHS is exhausted, as neuroblastoma has a significant chance of recurrence.
Ms. Stephenson added, “The incredible support and donations not only from our friends and family, but from around the world have been overwhelming.
“We are very grateful to everyone who helped.
“It’s been a very difficult year for us and Oliver’s forecast for 2020 was not good at all.
“But he prevailed, everything is going well now, he is fit and strong and even back in school.”
Although Oliver gets the all-clear, the numbers show that 60% of people who have recovered from neuroblastoma will relapse.
Ms. Stephenson said, “We do everything we can to prevent this from happening.”
During Oliver’s treatment, his family was taken from the Solve childhood cancer Charity.