A six-year-old boy who survived Covid-19 early in the pandemic while also battling with cancer is in the US for treatment to reduce the chances of the cancer returning.
Archie Wilks flew out to the Levine Medical Centre in Charlotte, North Carolina, late last week for treatment that aims to change cells and block specific genes that can cause cancer.
The youngster, from near Saffron Walden in Essex, rang the bell at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge in July to celebrate being in full remission after 42 months of cancer treatment.
His treatment in the US aims to lower the chances of a relapse, and he is currently having scans before the treatment starts at the end of the week.
Simon Wilks, 34, said his son is required to be back at the Levine Medical Centre another five times over the next 24 months, for five-day periods.
Archie’s twin brother Henry and their mother Harriet, 32, are also with them.
“We had less than two weeks’ notice from Archie being accepted on the trial to having to get everything booked, packed and fly out, so it’s been very hectic, last minute and slightly stressful as usual,” said Mr Wilks.
“We will make sure the boys get some special treats while we are here, to celebrate Archie finishing treatment and for everything they’ve been through over the last four years.
“But ultimately we are thankful we will now have done everything available to give Archie the best chance of keeping the cancer away.”
He said that they took Archie and Henry to watch a game of American football at the Carolina Panthers stadium, two miles from the hospital, and they “loved” it.
Archie was just four years old when he caught coronavirus in March 2020 during treatment for neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer.
The Tottenham Hotspur fan’s recovery a few weeks later gave hope to many parents with seriously ill children, and well-wishers included England striker Harry Kane.
The past few years of hospital stays have meant the family have often been separated as Archie has been in hospital with one parent while Henry has remained home with the other.
Archie was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in January 2019 after becoming so ill he could not stand up.
The rare cancer, which affects around 100 children each year in the UK and is most common in children under the age of five, develops from specialised nerve cells (neuroblasts) left behind from a baby’s development in the womb.
Two tumours were found around Archie’s kidney and spine and the disease had spread to other areas, including his bones and bone marrow.
Mr Wilks said 50% of children successfully treated for neuroblastoma will relapse.
Of those who relapse, 90% will not survive.
Family and friends raised more than £230,000 to enable Archie to take part in a vaccine trial in the US which could reduce the chance of the cancer returning.
He did not fit the criteria for a vaccine trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Centre in New York, but the family researched further options and Archie was accepted for treatment at the Levine Medical Centre in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Mr Wilks thanked everyone who has fundraised, donated and supported Archie to make it possible for him to go to the US for treatment and give him the “best chance to keep the cancer away”.