In world first, 13-year-old has been cured of incurable brain cancer:  Doctors had told Lucas’ parents that he will not live

Suffering from brain cancer at the age of six (6), Lucas was told that his condition was incurable.  Aged 12 today, he has managed to beat the disease and become the first person to do so.  And it is perhaps, thanks to his parents’ decision to take the 13-year-old Belgian citizen to France for his miraculous recovery.

Despite advances in the management of pediatric cancers, cancerous tumors affect about 50 to 100 children and adolescents each year in France.  This poses a challenge for the medical world.  While the five-year survival rate for pediatric cancer has now reached 85 percent; some types, such as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), remain difficult to treat, which is what Lucas had, also.  DIPG is an aggressive and malignant brain tumor that develops in a part of the brainstem called the pons.  DIPG is inoperable and is usually treated with radiotherapy, which is known to sometimes slow down the progression of the disease.

No medication is effective against DIPG

The progression of this cancer is extremely rapid, and the outcome is generally fatal within 9 to 12 months of diagnosis.  However, exceptional cases like that of Lucas are hard to come by.  “Lucas has defied all life expectancies,” said Jacques Grill, who treated Lucas and is the head of the Brain Tumors program at the Gustave-Roussy Cancer Center in Paris.  In an interview, Dr Grill got emotional when he was reminded of the time seven (7) years ago when he had to inform Lucas’s parents that their son was going to die.  At that time, Lucas’ family came to France for treatment, where the young boy was one of the first patients to enroll in a clinical trial to test a new medication, a targeted therapy.

Tumor disappeared after medications

Lucas responded very well to the treatment from the beginning, noting the Doctor.  “Over the course of MRI scans, I saw the tumor completely disappear,” said Dr. Grill, who, despite these miraculous results, hesitated to stop the medication.  “On average, it takes 10 or 15 years between the avenue and the medication; it’s a long process,” added Dr. Grill.

However, the challenge is understanding why Lucas was cured and how his medical case could bring hope to hundreds of young people in the future.  About ten (10) other children included in the same clinical trial have seen their life expectancy exceed the statistics and are still alive several years after diagnosis; however, their cancer has not completely disappeared.  This increased life expectancy is probably due to the “biological characteristics of their tumor,” explaining their better response to treatment than other patients receiving the same therapy, explained Dr. Grill.

An ongoing trial by BIOMED

Researchers at Gustave-Roust studied the genetic abnormalities of all patients and created tumor organoids – which are 3D copies of patients’ tumors made in the laboratory – to understand their biology and their sensitivity to drugs.  “The case of Lucas opens up real hope.  We will try to reproduce in vitro the alterations that we have identified in his cells,” explained Marie-Anne Debily, a Researcher supervising this work.

In concrete terms, medical teams want to find out if the DNA alterations present in Lucas’s cells decrease their tumors once “reproduced” in other patients.

REFERENCE:  Interesting Engineering; 16 FEB 2024; Sejal Sharma