Newly-approved cancer drug may have saved this 9-year-old's life

The Leeds family had lost all hope for their nine-year-old son who had cancer. Then a breakthrough drug changed their outlook. 

Ashton Leeds was only five when doctors diagnosed him with stage four thyroid cancer. Immediately, Ashton's parents allowed surgery to remove a lump biopsy from the boy's throat. 

But according to ABC News' report, that didn't completely fix the problem. Kayley Leeds, Ashton's mother, explained how things got worse in an interview aired on "Good Morning America."

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She said: 

"Slowly, we noticed his breathing change and he kind of lost the weight. So we went back to see his doctor and they did another chest x-ray and it showed that the cancer had spread in his lungs."

More surgeries and cancer treatments did nothing to prevent the inevitable. According to Kayley:  

"They did some testing and they found out that the cancer had become resistant. We didn't know how long Ashton had after that." 

Ashton's father Shayne Leeds recalled the horrific days: 

"The worst moment was probably seeing him after he had surgery - seeing him hooked up to all the machines." 

Then the family got a life-changing phone call about a trial cancer drug. Known as Vitrakvi or larotrectinib, the drug prevents cancer growth by stopping a certain protein.

For Ashton, this drug, which targeted a very specific genetic mutation of a certain cancer, was all he needed. The targeted mutation is called neurotropic receptor tyrosine kinase (NTRK).

Four years later, he is almost cancer free. On a monthly basis, the family still has to drive 700 miles from Alberta to Seattle in Canada to receive treatment.

But Dr. Katie Albert, the Seattle Children's Hospital pediatric oncologist, explained: 

"This is his most recent scan. Basically almost everything is totally gone, but as you can see, the difference is night and day." 

Both Ashton's internal and external reaction to the treatment could bring hope to thousands of other patients. However, doctors say only one percent will likely benefit. 

The Food and Durg Administration approved Vitrakvi on Monday. Bayer manufactures and sells it to consumers. The current price is about $20 or less and the company says it will be refunded if it doesn't work. 

Kayley said of the drug: 

"This medication has been the best thing that has happened to us in the last couple of years. It really does give us hope for Ashton's future and that everything's going to be OK."

There is still clinical trials being done on Vitrakvi. Yet its strong potential allows availability to the public who may need it. 

Ashton, now a cancer survivor, joins the ranks of others who have faced the devastating disease. 

Earlier this month, an older lady did a makeover as part of her turnaround following her survival of cancer.

She went to Christopher Hopkins, known as "MakeOverGuy Minneapolis," to set her up. He uploaded the inspiring video to YouTube. 

Hopkins transformed the survivor's hair into a voluminous, red bob. Gone were her limp blond locks. He also treated her to a professional makeup session. 

Source: YouTube/ MAKEOVERGUY Minneapolis

The results were amazing. We're happy that despite their tragic pasts, there are people who can smile on the other side of surviving cancer.

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