For the past three years, Ka’ili Giteau-Tai has been unable to play with her siblings, attend school, sleepover with friends, participate in sports or even have a proper shower.
Now, the 7 year-old is “living her best life,” after beating a rare cancer thanks to the Zero Childhood Cancer program.
Ka’ili was just 4 years-old when she was diagnosed with Wilms’ Tumour, a “rockmelon sized” kidney cancer in 2019.
After eight months of traditional chemotherapy, the cancer unfortunately spread into her lungs.
Her family moved to Sydney from Canberra and “did everything under the sun,” including aggressive chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant and radiation.
In 2020 Ka’ili was enrolled in the ZERO program which found a drug not normally used for Wilms’ Tumour might treat her cancer.
Ka’ili’s mother Kristy Giteau said “it was an easy decision” to accept Professor Glenn Marshall from Sydney Children’s Hospital’s offer to participate in the experimental trial.
“We just didn’t want to hear the news again that she had relapsed,” Ms Giteau said.
“Her success rate going in was 30 per cent. They said treatments could shorten her life but as a parent, you just want her to survive to the next day.”
“They looked at her genetic background and developed medicines to attack her cancer cells individually,” she said.
“It’s brilliant, I feel like it’s the way of the future.”
After four months in the program, Ka’ili is in remission.
“I am really happy to say my daughter is cancer free,” Mr Giteau said.
“She’s living her best seven year-old life.”
Ka’ili now plays Oztag with her siblings Telu and Noa and swims, something she was prevented from doing through treatment because of a central line that couldn’t get wet.
“We used to have to keep her away because she might pick up a new illness from the kids,” Ms Giteau said.
“Simple things where she can stand with her head under the shower have given us a new found perspective.”
Ms Giteau said her daughter’s remission “means the world.”
Professor Glenn Marshall AM said this “was an extraordinary result.”
“Without ZERO, Ka’ili’s options would have been limited,” he said.
It comes as every child diagnosed with cancer will now have access to the revolutionary treatment program being rolled out across the country in a world first.
The pioneering scheme, expected to cure or prolong the lives of more than 1000 children a year, will be fully operational across Australia within months.
ZERO will now be rolled out to all nine of Australia’s children’s hospitals by the end of the year thanks to $67 million in new funding from the federal government and Minderoo Foundation, a philanthropic organisation.
Previously only the sickest and most vulnerable children with cancer had access to the exciting therapy, but now every person aged 18 and under will be eligible.
Originally published as NSW seven year-old beats cancer after miracle new cancer program
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