Radical stem therapy is last hope for brave tot Kai Laidlaw

Pamela Neilson with son Kai Laidlaw. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Pamela Neilson with son Kai Laidlaw. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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The parents of a two-year-old cancer patient Kai Laidlaw have told how they are pinning their hopes on a radical new stem cell therapy to save their son’s life.

Little Kai has fought leukaemia twice since he was diagnosed with an aggressive form known as infant acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in September 2013, when he was just eight months old.

He was set to head to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital in July for an experimental bone marrow transplant in July but doctors at the Glasgow Sick Kids Hospital carried out the procedure as they feared he would not survive the wait. Despite a promising start, mum Pamela Neilson, of Leith, revealed his leukaemia had returned for a third time in October.

His parents are now praying that Kai is accepted on to a pioneering gene study at Great Ormond Street, where cells are engineered to hunt cancer.

“We are going to do everything we can to give our little boy the life he deserves,” said Pam, 38, the fiancée of Kai’s dad Calvin Laidlaw, 49, who has multiple sclerosis.

“We have just got to hope that we can keep Kai well between now and getting him down to London, and Kai’s consultants are working hard on this.

“It is in the hands of the gods and his amazing doctors.”

The toddler spent almost all of his first year in hospital, undergoing gruelling chemotherapy.

He had his left eye removed last year after the disease spread and he was struck down by a number of infections.

But despite showing signs of recovery, the family received the devastating news Kai’s leukaemia had returned and he was given months to live unless he had a bone marrow transplant.

Pamela said: “Kai came through the transplant without any side-effects and up until two months later, he was doing well. He was the best he could physically be. Then we were told he had relapsed again. It was devastating.”

Kai’s consultants in Glasgow launched a worldwide search for an effective treatment and came up with a new drug, Blinatumomab, which was previously only available in America.

Kai was the first child in Scotland to be given the drug but just two weeks into his treatment, it had to be stopped because it was making Kai even more ill as the leukaemia was becoming more aggressive and he had become more resistant to chemotherapy. His last option seems to be gene therapy in London and another bone marrow transplant in Glasgow.

His parents have been given hope by the success of one-year-old Layla Richards, from north London, who made a “miracle” recovery after she was given the highly-experimental treatment.

As the treatment is so new, it is still at the study stage and has yet to be fully trialled.

Pam said: “We are just hoping that he will be strong enough. Hopefully, the chemotherapy will push back the leukaemia and give him enough time for this treatment.”

A spokesperson for Great Ormond Street Hospital said: “Plans for a trial are progressing with the biotech company Cellectis, and all the relevant UK paediatric centres will be informed when the study is ready to start recruiting.”

lizzy.buchan@edinburghnews.com

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