Boy, 5, with leukaemia is cancer-free after family fundraise £500,000 for life-saving treatment

The parents of a five-year-old boy who won the nation’s heart in his battle against a rare cancer have revealed their joy after being told his disease has gone.

Oscar Saxelby-Lee, from Worcester, was given a ‘life or death’ three-month race to find a stem-cell match after his aggressive form of leukaemia worsened.

More than 10,000 people responded when a plea went out for potential donors – of which 5,000 of those queued in the rain to be tested.

After a match was found, it was hoped to be the first step to curing Oscar, who had rare T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

But parents Olivia Saxelby, 26, and Jamie Lee, 23, were left devastated when they discovered the disease had returned despite Oscar’s stem cell transplant last spring.

They suffered further heartache when they were told the NHS would not fund a second transplant or a potentially new cell therapy treatment.

The desperate couple launched a fundraising drive to raise £500,000 needed to send Oscar to Singapore for a trial of a new therapy, called CAR-T cell therapy.

After Oscar had the new treatment, Mr and Mrs Saxelby revealed on Thursday in a heartfelt Facebook post that he is now free of the disease.  

The parents of a five-year-old boy who won the nation’s heart in his battle against a rare cancer have revealed their joy after being told the disease has gone

Oscar Saxelby-Lee, from Worcester, was given a 'life of death' three month race against time to find a stem-cell match after his aggressive form of leukaemia worsened

Oscar Saxelby-Lee, from Worcester, was given a ‘life of death’ three month race against time to find a stem-cell match after his aggressive form of leukaemia worsened

More than 10,000 people responded when a plea went out for potential stem cell donors - of which 5,000 of those queued in the rain to be tested

More than 10,000 people responded when a plea went out for potential stem cell donors – of which 5,000 of those queued in the rain to be tested

The campaign to raise money for the treatment in Singapore became the fastest online charity appeal ever and reached its target in three weeks in October.

The youngster flew to the country over Christmas to have the therapy and a second bone marrow transplant in a bid to save his life.

CAR-T – chimeric antigen receptor T-cell – therapy is tailored to each individual patient.

It involves reprogramming their immune system cells which are then used to target the cancer. 

After a match was found, it was hoped to be the first step to curing Oscar, who had rare T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

After a match was found, it was hoped to be the first step to curing Oscar, who had rare T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

But parents Olivia Saxelby, 26, and Jamie Lee, 23, were left devastated when they discovered the disease had returned despite Oscar's stem cell transplant last spring

But parents Olivia Saxelby, 26, and Jamie Lee, 23, were left devastated when they discovered the disease had returned despite Oscar’s stem cell transplant last spring

The parents suffered further heartache when they were told the NHS would not fund a second transplant or a potentially new cell therapy treatment

The parents suffered further heartache when they were told the NHS would not fund a second transplant or a potentially new cell therapy treatment

The desperate couple launched a fundraising drive to raise £500,000 needed to send Oscar to Singapore for a trial of a new therapy, called CAR-T cell therapy. Pictured: Potential stem cell donors queue to be tested

The desperate couple launched a fundraising drive to raise £500,000 needed to send Oscar to Singapore for a trial of a new therapy, called CAR-T cell therapy. Pictured: Potential stem cell donors queue to be tested

The campaign became the fastest online charity appeal ever and reached its target in three weeks in October

The campaign became the fastest online charity appeal ever and reached its target in three weeks in October

In the Facebook post revealing that Oscar is now cancer free, his parents wrote: ‘OUR GREATEST NEWS.

‘From “his disease is too aggressive” and starting palliative care to “MRD negative”! NO DISEASE DETECTED!

‘We know it’s early days and anything can happen especially with his bone marrow being flat, but for now we are celebrating the news that we never thought we would hear.

‘GO OSCAR YOU AMAZING LITTLE BOY!’

His parents added: ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts to all of you for making this possible.

‘We are so so so so soooooo proud!

‘Although Oscar still needs another bone marrow transplant and we are a long way off full recovery to come home, we are rejoicing at this magical time in our lives!

‘We are literally THE proudest parents right now! 

The youngster flew to Singapore over Christmas to have the therapy and a second bone marrow transplant in a bid to save his life. Pictured: Oscar being visited by members of West Midlands Police

The youngster flew to Singapore over Christmas to have the therapy and a second bone marrow transplant in a bid to save his life. Pictured: Oscar being visited by members of West Midlands Police

CAR-T - chimeric antigen receptor T-cell - therapy is tailored to each individual patient. Pictured: Some of the 4,800 donors who queued at Pitmaston Primary School, in Worcester

CAR-T – chimeric antigen receptor T-cell – therapy is tailored to each individual patient. Pictured: Some of the 4,800 donors who queued at Pitmaston Primary School, in Worcester

Oscar, who had been treated at Birmingham Children’s Hospital since December 2018, is expected to remain in Singapore for six months.

His appeal was backed by the Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust, which has been collecting money on the family’s behalf. 

Dr Jen Kelly, the trust’s founder, said: ‘On behalf of the trust, I would like to thank everyone that has supported Oscar’s campaign in any way.

‘In particular mentioning the amazing team at Pitmaston Primary School, both the staff and parents who have gone to the most extraordinary lengths to make Oscar’s huge campaign a reality.

‘The Grace Kelly Childhood Cancer Trust is very proud to have been able to play a key role in Oscar’s campaign and we will continue to help support Oscar and other children affected by childhood cancer wherever possible.’

WHAT IS ACUTE LYMPHOBLASTIC LEUKAEMIA? 

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) is a type of blood cancer that starts from young white blood cells in the bone marrow.

There are around 810 new cases in the UK every year. In the US, ALL affects approximately 1.7 adults per 100,000.

Anyone can develop ALL, however, it mainly affects younger people.

Many ALL symptoms are vague and flu-like, such as:

  • Bruising or bleeding easily, including nosebleeds, heavy periods and blood in the urine or faeces

Risks for developing ALL include exposure to radiation, smoking, being overweight and having a weak immune system.

Research suggests being breastfed and exposed to childhood infections may reduce a person’s risk.

The main ALL treatment is chemotherapy. Patients may also have radiotherapy, steroids or bone marrow transplants.

Source: Cancer Research UK

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