Archie's Journey: New hope for four-year-old Archie Wilks as cancer treatment trial begins
The new year has brought new hope for the parents of four-year-old Archie Wilks, who is trialling a new treatment for aggressive childhood cancer.
The toddler, an identical twin, has been battling a stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma since January last year.
To the relief of mum Harriet, a former pupil at Herts and Essex High School, and dad Simon, who works in Bishop's Stortford, as 2020 began he was strong enough to begin a new therapy at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.
The couple have been waiting months for the go-ahead from doctors as Archie’s compromised immune system succumbed to a string of coughs and colds, including in November, when he was readmitted to hospital with a bug and unable to leave his hospital bed to receive his Indies community awards Child of Courage trophy.
In the end, twin Henry stayed away from nursery to protect his brother from further infections and a liver function test gave the family the green light to start the randomised clinical trial.
It includes children in 40 hospitals across 11 European countries, jointly funded by Solving Kids’ Cancer (Europe) and French charity Imagine for Margo. The Wilks family were doubly relieved when it was revealed Archie will receive the complete programme of two types of chemotherapy with immunotherapy.
The combination has already shown promising results in the USA, where Simon and Harriet hope Archie will be able to complete a supplementary vaccination treatment which they hope will eliminate the chance of a relapse. Children that successfully complete neuroblastoma treatment and become 'cancer-free' still have a 50% chance of the disease recurring. Once a child relapses with neuroblastoma, 90% will not survive.
Supporters of the Archie's Journey fundraising appeal have raised more than £170,000 towards a £200,000 target to fund the vaccination course at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a world-renowned treatment and research institution in New York.
Neuroblastoma is a second fight for survival for Archie. He and Henry suffered from twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome while in the womb and mum Harriet had laser surgery while pregnant to save her sons.
After spending Christmas Day with his family, Archie returned to the Addenbrooke’s ward which has become his second home over the past 12 months and began the trial on December 30.
Harriet said: “We're so relieved he's finally managed to start his new treatment. It’s hard to see him uncomfortable with pain from the immunotherapy but we're hopeful this treatment will make a difference to Archie’s tumours.”
In January last year, around a month after Archie first became unwell, an ultrasound found a large mass around his kidney. Another was found on his spine and the disease has spread to his bones and bone marrow.
Dad Simon, a former Newport Free Grammar School student, works for HIC Insurance Consultants in The Causeway in Stortford. He and his colleagues have rallied to support the family as all their lives have been turned upside down.
Archie’s plight has touched the hearts of individuals and businesses across Herts, Essex and beyond, with particular support coming from his footballing heroes at Tottenham Hotspur FC.
The next money-spinner is A Million Dreams ball at the Manor of Groves in High Wych on March 7. Harriet said: “If any local companies would like to sponsor the ball or donate an auction prize we would be very grateful.”
To find out more see Archie’s Journey on Facebook or his JustGiving donation page.https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/archiesjourney