A four-year-old boy with a rare form of leukaemia is finally on his way to receive potentially life-saving treatment in the US thanks to the kind donations of strangers.
Zac Oliver, from Telford, boarded a plane to Philadelphia yesterday and was all smiles in a joyous selfie with his mum Hannah Oliver-Willets, 33.
The pair took the photo on board the plane shortly before take-off. “ZAC IS ON HIS WAY!!! We couldn’t have got here without you all,” his family tweeted. “We did it. Zac’s off to start his treatment. Thank you all.”
The four-year-old was recently unwell and on antibiotics so it was touch and go whether he’d be able to get on a flight. However it would appear there’s a happy ending in sight for the Telford family.
Zac lives with near haploid childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and it’s thought he is the only child who has it in the UK. “We were told this is the worst cancer to try and cure,” his grandmother Annette Oliver, 62, previously told HuffPost UK.
Having exhausted treatment options in the UK and after declining a bone marrow transplant due to the high risk nature of the procedure, Zac’s family are looking for answers abroad in the form of CAR-T therapy which could improve his survival rate.
CAR-T is licensed for use in the UK, but is not currently available as treatment, which is why the family have raised money to send Zac to the US. The therapy involves a specialist collecting and making a small change to a person’s T cells, which play an important part in fighting infection and diseases. When the edited T cells are put back into the body, they then target the cancer cells.
Zac’s family, including mum Hannah, her husband Wayne Willets, dad Mark Garbett and Zac’s three-year-old brother Leo, hold out hope this treatment option works. The costs required to keep him in hospital while he undergoes the free clinical trial in the US will set the family back over half a million pounds.
The Oliver family, along with Telford locals, fundraised a staggering £500,000 to pay for Zac’s treatment. One anonymous donor pledged £100,000 to the family and music mogul Simon Cowell offered up £50,000 to the cause. Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler and footballer Jermain Defoe also donated.
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