It’s every parent’s nightmare to learn that cancer is running through their baby’s body. The bad hand of cards you were dealt that makes you question how something so cruel could happen to a helpless being. It’s a living nightmare that the Purchase family and many others face today.
How Gideon Purchase Beat Stage 4 Cancer – and All Odds
The Purchases had had their baby at home for six months; new parents with a newborn living a new life. Everything was going smoothly, or at least seemed to be. Their 6-month-old child, Gideon Purchase, looked healthy and happy and had a fun, gregarious personality. But around that time, something changed.
Gideon starting sleeping poorly, losing his appetite, and being more fussy than usual. As new and optimistic parents, they believed those symptoms were related to their baby’s teething. But within a few days, a yellowish bruise formed over one of Gideon’s eyes, which spread a day later to both eyes. The bruising was also accompanied by a lump on his head.
At a loss for words…
Gideon’s parents took too him into emergency – an unsuspecting visit that would change their lives.
If you’ve ever wondered what forever feels like, the Purchases probably experienced it. After placing their baby’s life into the hands of doctors for tests, they came back with one devastating diagnosis: stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma. This means the original tumor has spread to lymph nodes in other parts of the body, bones, bone marrow, liver, skin, and other organs. In the United States, about 700 children are diagnosed with neuroblastoma each year and accounts for 6 percent of childhood cancers.
“Looking at my sweet little baby and thinking about having to lose him was just indescribable, unthinkable,” Gideon’s mother, Katie, recalled.
“Very shocking and just one of those world-shattering moments,” described Gideon’s father, Gary.
However, the doctors had a timely plan – fly Gideon Purchase to St. Jude by medivac. It was at St. Jude that doctors discovered the true severity of his disease.
The New Clinical Immunotherapy Trial That Helped Save Gideon Purchase
“His entire face and skull was full of cancer, and [90 percent of his bone marrow was] full of cancer,” said Gideon’s St. Jude doctor, Sara Federico. “He had a large tumor that was present in the middle of his body.”
For Gideon Purchase and his stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma, the future looked dim, but not hopeless. The 5-year survival rate for him and others in his situation is around 40 to 50 percent, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).
Immediately, doctors implemented a unique approach to immunotherapy (i.e., the treatment of disease with substances that stimulate the immune response). What made this cancer treatment unique is that it combines an antibody with chemotherapy at the beginning, middle, and end of treatment.
“Neuroblastoma tumor cells have a protein present on their surface called GD2,” Federico explained. “At St. Jude we manufacture an antibody that can find those cells, bind to [them,] and kill the tumor cells. What we’re seeing so far, the early response rate, is phenomenal.”
What This Unique Cancer Immunotherapy Did for Gideon Purchase
From the first treatment, Gideon’s tumors began shrinking. In fact, over the 15 total months of immunotherapy treatment, “he went from 84 percent of his marrow have tumor to zero percent.”
Granted, because Gideon’s form of neuroblastoma was so aggressive, “they can’t leave one cell alive,” so doctors did use conventional radiation afterwards to be certain they targeted all cancer cells.
“It was amazing to see how quickly the cancer was being demolished,” said Katie of Gideon’s immunotherapy treatment.
For Gideon’s dad, Gary, it “has been an awesome and terrifying 15-month journey.”
In a wonderful way, really, this horrific life event has been a blessing in disguise.
“It allows me just to enjoy time with my child. I’ve gotten to sit down and play more with my child and read to him more and just interact more on a daily basis, while he’s had this terrible disease here than I ever would in my normal life.”
Now, Gideon is two-years-old and back to his normal self.
“It makes you appreciate the little things. Suddenly, life’s problems just don’t seem like a big deal anymore,” said Gary. “He makes us treasure every day.”
Some Thoughts About Immunotherapy
If immunotherapy proved to be so drastically effective in Gideon’s case, then why are chemotherapy and radiation still so heavily used?
Unlike chemotherapy, which directly attacks tumors, immunotherapy uses certain parts of a person’s immune system to fight cancer and other cancer-like diseases. In cancer immunotherapy, two things can happen.
- It can activate a robust, stronger than normal immune response by stimulating your own immune system to work harder or smarter to attack cancer cells.
- It can give your immune system components such as man-made immune system proteins, and actually teach your immune system how to spot cancer cells and destroy them.
While chemotherapy depends on the cancer drugs to be most effective, immunotherapy can continue to help your immune system even after you finish treatment.
But, Is Immunotherapy an Option for Everyone?
This is something people would have to discuss personally with their doctors. Because everyone’s bodies are different, immunotherapy could be more effective for some people and less effective for others.
According to the American Cancer Society, “immunotherapy includes treatments that work in different ways. Some boost the body’s immune system in a very general way. Others help train the immune system to attack cancer cells specifically. Immunotherapy works better for some types of cancer than for others. It’s used by itself for some of these cancers, but for others it seems to work better when used with other types of treatment.”
Disclaimer: Do not remove yourself from any prescribed medications or treatments without consulting your doctor. Any and all dietary supplements or nutritional products and treatments discussed on this site are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease. The information contained in this site is for general information and for educational purposes only.
 Kim, E. K. (2017, November 21). 2-year-old overcomes stage 4 cancer with breakthrough treatment at St. Jude. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from https://www.today.com/news/2-year-old-overcomes-stage-4-cancer-breakthrough-treatment-st-t119142
 Neuroblastoma – Childhood: Stages and Groups. (2016, May 31). Retrieved January 03, 2018, from https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/neuroblastoma-childhood/stages-and-groups
 Neuroblastoma – Childhood: Statistics. (2017, March 14). Retrieved January 03, 2018, from https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/neuroblastoma-childhood/statistics
 M. (2017, October 11). “Hope through the roof”. Retrieved January 03, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZoEvObqbKE
 Click here to support Praying For Gideon organized by Gary Purchase Jr. (n.d.). Retrieved January 03, 2018, from https://www.gofundme.com/pu8s5yqk
 Immunotherapy and Chemotherapy: Whats the Difference? (n.d.). Retrieved January 03, 2018, from https://www.cancerresearch.org/blog/june-2016/difference-cancer-immunotherapy-and-chemotherapy
 What Is Cancer Immunotherapy? (n.d.). Retrieved January 03, 2018, from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment-types/immunotherapy/what-is-immunotherapy.html