Making Strides In Rare Childhood Cancer

Jul 05, 2012, 10:00 ET from TMD Limited

SAN DIEGO, July 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Little Benjamin Hess was only 3 years old when his mother noticed his eyelids were drooping, and he had developed dark circles under his eyes.  When she took him to his pediatrician in Sydney, Australia, the doctor ordered several tests, and Benji was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer.  After weeks of research Benji's mom opted to travel to Mexico for treatment.  According to TMD Limited, a medical tourism research company, they are one of thousands of families who travel to Mexico for medical treatment each year.

Neuroblastomas account for only 7.8% of childhood cancers in the USA.  This cancer is diagnosed by blood  tests, 24 hour urine tests, bone marrow and surgical biopsies, X-rays, CT and bone scans.

While this disease may be present at birth, it can strike children anytime under the age of 5.  Tumors begin in the neural crest cells in the adrenal glands or in the sympathetic nervous tissue in the abdomen, chest, neck or pelvis.  Adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and produce hormones that regulate the heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar.  Benji's tumors were in his neck.

Symptoms can include dark circles under the eyes and drooping eyelids, as in Benji's case, or by persistent cough, difficulty breathing, lung infections, limb weakness, swollen stomach, and painless bluish lumps under the skin, depending on the location of the tumor.

Conventional treatment includes surgery, radiation, high dose chemotherapy, stem cell transplants and monoclonal antibody therapy.  Because chemotherapy destroys the bone marrow, stem cells are harvested before treatment.  After high dose chemotherapy is completed, the stem cells are replaced.

While the prognosis depends on the child's age, stage of the cancer when diagnosed and location of the tumor, children treated with conventional therapy have a less than 20% five year survival rate.

Benji's mom hoped for a better chance of survival for her son. "I watched my father go through conventional treatment for liver cancer," she said.  "I watched him waste away, suffering terribly.  He died in such pain.  There was no way I was going to put my son through that."  She spent hours researching alternative clinics around the world. 

Through Facebook, she contacted a charitable organization in the UK called Families Against Neuroblastoma, or FAN.   This group provides support, information and assistance in all aspects of dealing with neuroblastoma, and they seek to fund specific research into cutting edge neuroblastoma treatments. 

After several phone calls, she eventually chose a small private clinic in Baja, Mexico.  Hope4Cancer Institute offered a wide array of aggressive natural treatments, and they were all painless, non-invasive and had no side effects. 

According to the clinic Medical Director Antonio Jimenez, M.D., Benji received gentle local hyperthermia which destroys cancer cells with heat, natural vaccines, immune modulation, detoxification and nutrition.  SonoPhoto Dynamic Therapy used sound and light frequencies to destroy cancer cells without damaging normal cells.  When sound and light come in contact with the a natural sensitizer that is given under the tongue, the result is a chemical reaction called photosynthesis, which explodes free radical oxygen right into the cancer cells to kill them.  Benji continued this therapy at home for 12 months.

"Our treatments are very easy on children," said Dr. Jimenez.  "We've treated hundreds of children every year, from all corners of the world.  Our unique combination of treatments can produce complete recovery from devastating childhood diseases."

Benji and his mother spent 3 weeks at Hope4Cancer, and his mother continued some of the therapies at home.  Benji responded quickly and as his tumors shrank, he became more energetic and responsive.  Soon he was racing around the clinic entertaining the other patients and their families.

"We are so fortunate to have found Dr. Jimenez and Hope4Cancer," said Marianne Hess, Benji's mother.  "Conventional therapies are so hard on children, to the point of being cruel.  On the Hope4Cancer protocol, Benji felt fine, and he never suffered or was in pain from the treatments.  I wish all parents would seek more gentle treatments – they offer a much higher survival rate, and they are easy on the kids."

Marla Manhart is a health writer and patient advocate and is associated with TMD Limited, a medical tourism research company.