Family wins 1 cancer fight, now faces another to save son's life

RAMSEY, Minn -- A Ramsey family won approval for an experimental drug from Pfizer to stop the growth of their son's rare brain tumor but now they face another fight to save his life.

Nicole and Steve Pierson have learned a revolutionary new laser that can treat brain tumors may be the best hope for their son Gavin, who is six years old. The potentially lifesaving technology is from right here in Minnesota, and it could help other children as well.

Monteris Medical, based in Plymouth, Minnesota, recently launched thenew fiber optic laser probe.

The technology uses heat and MRI imaging to kill the cancer cells in brain tumors once thought inoperable. The company says the laser is minimally invasive and requires just a small incision.

"There has ever been anything like this before. We can't call it a cure, but we can buy more time." said Kathryn Meintsma, Vice President of Sales at Monteris Medical. She says the laser hasn't yet been tested on children, but the company plans to meet with Gavin's team of doctors this week.

Currently, Gavin is on Pfizer's trial drug known as CDK, which has shown to inhibit a protein found in tumor cells and has been tested in around 200 adults, some with similar tumors. It's never been tested on children until now, and so far, Gavin's parents say his tumor has stabilized and stopped growing. His doctors now believe he can handle a stronger dose.

Gavin's neurosurgeon, Dr. Joseph Petronio, of Children's Hospitals and Clinics, says Gavin will continue on CDK, but in the future will likely need this laser treatment. He says the laser also has potential to help other kids with tumors and possibly children with epilepsy.

"It seems amazing, Gavin has had 5 surgeries that are 20 hours long, and this could possibly be a few hours of a procedure and get out of the hospital the next day," said his mother, Nicole Pierson.

Gavin nicknamed his tumor "Joe Bully" because he says it's the bully in his brain. He has dreams of becoming a marine biologist, proudly showing off his turtles and pet tortoise that offer hope and help him heal from his latest brain surgery.

"Gavin loves gymnastics, he loves tee ball, and he wants to get back to it. He wants to just have fun and be a normal kid again," said his father Steve Pierson.

Right now, Children's Hospitals and Clinics is actively raising money to buy the laser for the St. Paul hospital camps. Monteris estimates the cost of the equipment at $320,000. You can help by making a donation to the hospital foundation.

The Pierson family also wants to help raise funds and spread the word to other families facing the same heartbreaking struggle.

"I know Dr. Petronio and Children's Hospital is working on it, I think as a brain tumor parent you sort of just try to do everything in your power as well," said Nicole Pierson. "We just want more time like any other family."

A pasta fundraiser dinner will be held for Gavin on Saturday March 23rd at Faith Lutheran in Coon Rapids, from 4pm-7pm.

Follow Gavin's fight on CaringBridge here.


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