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Family race to find funding for cancer treatment abroad

Braiden-Lee Prescott, 3, has an aggressive form of childhood cancer. Photo: ITV Granada

Time, is running out for 3 year old Braiden-Lee Prescott. His family from Leigh, have less than 2 months to raise a quarter of a million pounds to get him treatment in America that they hope will save his life. It's treatment that isn't available here in the UK.

Stephanie Reece, Braiden's mother, said: "It's just too much pressure - I mean we have to be at hospital with Braiden and look after him when he's really ill and we have to worry about whether the money's coming in quick enough and whether people are giving us any money at all - just too much pressure."

They are one of about a hundred families every year here in the UK, told that their child has neuroblastoma. Its an aggressive form of childhood cancer, with a poor survival rate. Treatments here in the UK are very limited, with no relapse protocol, and many families believe America is the best option.

The treatment offered in the USA, called Immunatherapy involves giving patients 3 drugs; an antibody known as Ch14.18 plus 2 cytokines. It's been shown in the States to cut deaths by 25%. But the UK won't offer the 3 drug combination because they're worried about the potential side effects of using all of them. Instead scientists are doing their own trials here in Britain and Europe, looking into whether if they gave children 2 of the drugs or maybe only one of them it would still have the same effect on the cancer. But as this is still being trialled there is no guarantee that this treatment is as effective as the 3 drug combination offered in America, and many families believe their children are being used as guinea-pigs.

Joanna's son Corey was diagnosed in April last year. Desperate to give him the very best chance - they raised the money and took him to America, so far his scans are showing he has no evidence of the disease.

Joanna Ashcroft, Corey's mother, said: "Its so easy to say lets just see if this works or see whether we can miss that out but these are children's lives that you're talking about. I'd do it again in a heartbeat however that doesn't take away how difficult it was. We didn't want to be going beg for money, making public appeal but when you're told your child has got high chance of not making it, you've got to get best for them and that was our only option."

But for some families it's not just the huge sums of money that they are being forced to raise that's the problem. Sharon Wooley's son Charlie has neuroblastoma but he also has Aspergers Syndrome.

Sharon Wooley said: "Because charlie has aspergers syndrome i dont personally think he'd cope and think he'd be close to a breakdown going over to america for six months so thats predominantly why we're not going to go for it...if the treatment was available here in the UK our decision may well be different."

We featured Charlie's story on Granada Reports just a few weeks ago. His family were desperately trying to raise the huge sums to send him to America. But after a lot of soul searching and deliberating, Charlie's mother has now decided against going to America and is going to opt instead for less conventional holistic treatment that is offered in Germany. Meanwhile she will also try her luck with the UK trial and hope Charlie is randomised with the 2 drug combination rather than just the one.

There are a number of charities currently helping families to fundraise and offering support, advice and help. Linza Corp who founded the charity 'Families Against Neuroblastoma, lost her own child to the disease.

Linza Corp, Families Against Neuroblastoma, said: "Going abroad is not easy, families are often divided, theres a huge financial pressure put on the families and the fundraising is a massive task. If treatment was available here, siblings wouldn't be put to one side, families would stay together and more children would survive we are absolutely sure."

With other European governments paying for their children to have treatment in the US, families back here feel let down.

Sharon Wooley added: "If you relapse here there's very little that they do, you're sent home with a macmillan nurse and its palliative care time, but if you go to America there's hope there."

The charities say its now time for the Government to change tack.

"if its your child you want your child to have access to best posssible course of treatment so yes its 25% more effective and we want access to it," added Linza Corp.

Little Braiden Lee Prescott's future now depends on how much his family can raise. His life potentially hangs on the generosity of others.