RAMSEY, Minn - A Ramsey boy will be one of the first patients at Children's Hospitals and Clinics to be treated with a new laser created for inoperable brain tumors.
Gavin Pierson, 7, and his parents and doctors fought to bring the lifesaving technology to Minnesota.
Pierson has been fighting a germ cell known as Teratoma. The tumor was nicknamed "Joe Bully" for the bully in his brain. The mass started as benign, but it became cancerous as it grew near the brain stem even after he underwent chemotherapy and five brain surgeries.
His parents, Nicole and Steve Pierson, first took on Pfizer for approval of an experimental drug to slow the growth of the tumor, which has proved successful, but still the large tumor remains in Gavin's brain.
"How are we going to incinerate Joe Bully?" Gavin asks.
Now, his doctors think they have the tool to do just that.
The Piersons, along with Gavin's neurosurgeon, Dr. Joseph Petronio, began rallying for a new laser therapy known as LITT (Laser induced thermal therapy). It uses heat and MRI imaging to kill the cancer cells in brain tumors once thought inoperable.
"We just kept fighting. It seemed impossible. It really did," said Nicole Pierson. "When it's your kid's life, there is really no limit, and I guess that is what I would tell parents. If you are given a diagnosis, there's really no end of it."
Children's Hospitals and Clinics will be the first center to have the laser in the Midwest region. It arrived Oct. 10 from the manufacturer,Visualase, and has already been used successfully on a young patient with epilepsy.
Petronio calls it a "one-two punch" to complement Gavin's experimental drug, but he believes the technology will eventually help up to 75 children per year with inoperable brain tumors or epilepsy. He says procedure is minimally invasive and requires just a small incision and only a one-night hospital stay.
"Our estimates in the first year, we'll be treating 20 to 30 children with this technology," said Petronio. "It's a significant development in our arsenal of tools to treat pediatric brain tumors."
Gavin is will have his procedure done on Oct. 29, but meanwhile he's recovered enough to enjoy everyday life. He's back in second grade and in gymnastics doing exercises to gain strength every day. He says it's the first time he's remembered being happy in a while.
"Just how a kid could inspire one family, who can (then) inspire so many people to just make a difference," said Nicole Pierson. "This laser is going to make a difference in so many kids' lives."
The cost of the laser is around $400,000 and Children's Hospitals and Clinics is still raising the funds to cover the expense of the technology. Anyone who wants to help can do so at giving.childrensmn.org/donate.