CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For one young boy battling a deadly disease, the road to recovery means traveling 500 miles from home to Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital, in Charlotte. That’s where he is part of a new therapy plan.
Collier Foote lives in Alabama and is a typical 9-year-old boy.
“I like to swim and I like to ride my four-wheeler,” Foote said.
“If he didn’t have a little bald head, you wouldn't know anything was going on,” his mom, Kayla Terrell, said.
For the last four years, he’s been battling stage 4 neuroblastoma. It’s a rare form of cancer that develops in certain types of nerve tissue and mainly affects children.
Terrell said her son started to get sick when he was in pre-K.
“There would be one night of a fever, the next night he would be fine," she said. "Then there would be one night of leg cramps that we would associate with growing pain."
It took two months of doctor visits and tests for her to finally know what was going on with her son.
“By the time it got caught finally, it was in all of his bones," Terrell said. "It was all throughout his body. I mean his liver, his lungs, his bone marrow."
However, after years of treatments and harsh therapies, his cancer continued to come back. Now the family has new hope. They are participating in a unique clinical trial at Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital.
Pediatric Oncologist Dr. Giselle Sholler said it involves using the genetics of his tumor to create a medication tailored specifically to him.
Atrium Health Levine Children's Hospital is working in partnership with the University of Florida on this pediatric oncology clinical trial.
“We're creating a vaccine for the patient's tumor using their own white cells in their own tumor,” Sholler said.
The study lasts a year, from his initial biopsy done in December. It also involves adoptive T-cell therapy.
“It's precision treatment in terms of selecting drugs that are specific for his cancer, and then precision immunotherapy using his own immune system to fight the cancer,” Sholler said.
So far, Foote’s body is responding well to the medicine and his mom says she has never felt more hopeful.
“He's going to live a normal life, he's going to do everything that he wants to do,” Terrell said.
Foote has a message to families and other kids going through similar battles.
“I would try to make the child less scared about everything," Foote said. "Then I would talk to the parents and tell them that everything's gonna be okay."
He will be back in February to get his second round of treatment.
Now the trial is open and the hospital is currently taking new patients. Just head to Atrium Health’s website for a list of their research and clinical trials.