Experimental treatment slows tumor's growth

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sahara Aldridge was originally treated at Houston's MD Anderson Cancer Center, using the conventional methods of chemotherapy, radiation and drug treatment. But last December doctors told the Aldridge family that the treatment wasn't stopping the growing tumor on her brain stem. They recommended more radiation and chemotherapy, and warned the family of possible extreme side effects.

The Aldridge family decided to pursue their "plan B" and took Sahara to the Burzynski Research Institute, also in Houston. The institute started Sahara on a controversial, experimental treatment for cancer using drugs called antineoplastines, thought to make cancer cells start attacking themselves. The institute also prescribed Sahara a steroid to keep inflammation in the tumor to a minimum. The steroid has caused Sahara to gain weight, and the treatment means she must eat a carefully monitored, low-sodium diet.

Sahara receives the drugs 24 hours a day through a port in her chest. Her mother, Amy, serves as her nurse, changing out the bags that contain her medicine and attended to her needs every day. The medicines make sleep hard to come by, and both Amy and Sahara get a few hours whenever they can, typically in the mornings.

The treatment has held the tumor stable until this month, when an MRI showed slight growth. Sahara's parents think the growth was caused by a reduction in the level of antineoplastines she was prescribed after she developed an infection in April. Now the dose has been increased, and Sahara's parents think that increase will pay off on the next MRI.

"We still have faith in the treatment because it had stopped, and these tumors just don't do that," said Amy.

-- Matt Sanders

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