UK cancer boy has good chance to recover

2014-09-09 21:42
 Ashya King (AP)

Ashya King (AP)

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Prague - Cancer-stricken boy Ashya King, whose case made headlines after his parents removed him from a British hospital, underwent scans in Prague on Tuesday as Czech doctors said he had a 70-percent chance of survival if the treatment goes well.

The 5-year-old's parents sparked an international manhunt after taking him from hospital against doctors' wishes last month, but specialists in Prague are hopeful that lifesaving treatment could work if the tumour does not spread.

"The good news was that there's no visible signs that he has any regrowth of cancer," Ashya's father Brett told reporters minutes after his son left a Prague medical centre on a stretcher clutching a teddy bear after undergoing brain and spinal cord scans.

"We'll find out in the next couple of days, with the spinal tap, if there's microscopic cancer in his fluid. But we're hoping not," he said.

King also revealed Ashya is unable to speak. "He's a bit traumatised," he told reporters, pointing to the family's tense journey from England to Spain to the Czech Republic.

Ashya's mother Naghmeh also accompanied the boy to the Proton Therapy Centre (PTC) in the Czech capital, where they arrived on Monday after a British court allowed them to leave Spain and returned them full custody of their son.

Jan Stary, head of the Prague Motol hospital children's haematology and oncology clinic, where Ashya is undergoing tests, said he could begin to receive proton beam therapy next week.

He estimated that Ashya had a 70% chance of survival if all the treatment is effective.

Proton beam therapy is said to be more precise than traditional radiotherapy, allowing doctors to deliver higher doses of energy to a tumour while sparing surrounding healthy tissue.

The treatment is scheduled to start on 15 September and last six weeks.

Ashya has been in the middle of a legal saga that began when his desperate parents whisked him away from a hospital in Southampton in southern England against doctors' advice on 28 August.

They want their son to have proton therapy, which was unavailable in Britain, instead of the conventional radiotherapy treatment which they believe would turn Ashya into a "vegetable".

Parents to sell home 

According to the PTC, the procedure costs about €65 000 in the Czech Republic, compared with €108 000 in the United States.

The Kings have said they will sell a home they own in Malaga to fund Ashya's treatment. Donations are also reported to have flooded in from well-wishers since their case grabbed headlines in Britain.

Their sudden departure from Britain triggered a cross-border manhunt that saw the parents jailed for four days in Spain before being freed and emotionally reunited with Ashya at his bedside in a Spanish hospital.

Brett King, 51, took his son out of Southampton General Hospital after claiming doctors there had blocked his attempts to take Ashya abroad for treatment and threatened to ask for a protection order.

But Peter Wilson, a paediatrician at the hospital, said "at no stage" had the hospital threatened a court order.

"We said we would work with teams in Prague to allow them to go out there for radiation, as long it was in a safe manner."

He said he was "horrified" by claims made by Ashya's father that they were "killing" the boy.

King had suggested that his son had only "months to live", but doctor Michael Marsh, of University Hospital Southampton trust, said the chances of surviving the condition Ashya has were "about 70 to 80% after five years".

The case received widespread coverage in the British media, with public opinion shifting from outrage to sympathy for his parents.

British prosecutors dropped the case against the parents after acknowledging that Ashya had been properly cared for.

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