A six-year-old girl Ecuadorian girl has been given emergency life saving and cutting edge proton therapy treatment on a cancerous brain tumour some 5,500 miles from home in Pamplona.
Ecuadorian girl Ahinara has been given the all-clear after becoming the first patient to complete proton therapy treatment in the recently inaugurated proton therapy unit of the University of Navarra Clinic (CUN) in the city of Pamplona in the Navarra region of northern Spain.
Ahinara was suddenly diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was taken to an emergency ward by her parents for what looked like a simple stomach virus in the city of Babahoyo in the Los Rios province in mid-western Ecuador.
She underwent an emergency operation and although the surgery went well her sarcoma cancer tumour on her brain required further treatment.
The sarcoma is reportedly very rare in Europe but more common in Latin America.
Her father Victoriano says they contacted lots of medical centres looking for treatment and “while in other centres they told us to think about how to give them the best quality of life for their last days, here (in Spain) they offered us a treatment plan”.
Ahinara and her parents then undertook the 9,000-kilometre (5,592-mile) trip to Spain on 2nd March, landing in Madrid just as the coronavirus pandemic was reaching the city.
They travelled to Pamplona and Ahinara received 30 proton therapy sessions of less than one minute daily, for which she had to be put to sleep.
The treatment was a success and in the video she can be seen wringing the bell in the hospital as medics cheer her on and her dad hugs her in an emotional scene after she completed the treatment.
She will now rest and recover for a few weeks before undergoing chemotherapy and doctors say she is a very sweet and happy girl who never got into low spirits during the treatment.
In the video, she takes the opportunity to thank the staff at the clinic for the treatment she received as she herself dresses up as a doctor.
Proton therapy uses high-energy protons that are very precisely directed at tumor cells and so avoid irradiating neighboring organs and tissues, which is why it is especially useful for tumors with difficult access and pediatric cancer.
Elena Panizo, a pediatric oncologist at CUN, told local newspaper La Vanguardia: “We opted for proton therapy because we wanted to reduce the risks derived from treatment. The quality of life of children surviving cancer is crucial. We need curative treatments but to reduce the consequences to a minimum.”
Ahinara will reportedly undergo a few more chemotherapy sessions in Pamplona before she will hopefully return to Ecuador at the end of the year.