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Sunday, June 15, 2014

Treatments on horizon for ill Hudson girl

HUDSON – If all goes as planned, the medical treatment that 12-year-old
McKenzie Lowe and her family hope will curtail her cancer symptoms could begin later this month.

The controversial treatment, involving a drug known as antineoplaston (ANP), has allegedly stemmed the growth of cancerous tumors in several patients, and although it has its skeptics, the girl’s family views it as part of their mission to leave no stone unturned as they search for answers. ...

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HUDSON – If all goes as planned, the medical treatment that 12-year-old
McKenzie Lowe and her family hope will curtail her cancer symptoms could begin later this month.

The controversial treatment, involving a drug known as antineoplaston (ANP), has allegedly stemmed the growth of cancerous tumors in several patients, and although it has its skeptics, the girl’s family views it as part of their mission to leave no stone unturned as they search for answers.

The latest move came several weeks ago in the person of a Rochester physician who battled the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to get access to a similarly expensive drug that he felt confident would stem the cancer that was ravaging his body and buy him some time.

Dr. Terry Bennett said his experience prompted him to come forward when he learned the young Hudson girl and her family were beseeching the FDA to grant a compassionate exception that would allow McKenzie access to ANP treatments.

Critics say the drug is unproven despite years of efforts by its developer, Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski, and call it an expensive false hope that can distract from more legitimate treatment.

While the drugs are different, Bennett said, the battle for approval that he fought is similar to the one the Lowes are undergoing.

Frank LaFountain, McKenzie’s grandfather and a family spokesman, said final details are still up in the air, but that the target date for her to begin treatment is June 23.

It isn’t yet clear whether she will begin treatments at Burzynski’s clinic in Texas.

A nurse who volunteered to undergo training so she could eventually administer McKenzie’s treatments at her Hudson home is expected to complete it soon, LaFountain said.

The medication for which Bennett fought and eventually succeeded is a derivative of a drug used to treat breast cancer, he said.

“They said it’s appropriate for a woman with breast cancer, but not for a man,” said the 76-year-old doctor, adding that he also succeeded in getting an off-label version of the drug approved for Medicare coverage.

Bennett said it didn’t take long after he met McKenzie to agree to be her “backup” doctor in New Hampshire, as he calls his role.

“I thought, if there’s any way they can make this happen, I’m all for it,” he said.

“We have a (sick) little girl here. I will supervise what goes on here the best I can.”

LaFountain said while the drug is being provided for free, there are plenty of associated costs that will run into the tens of thousands of dollars. To help offset that burden, those who organized her benefit fund, Friends of McKenzie Lowe, are working on scheduling fundraising events.

The first is June 24, courtesy of Kendall Pond Pizza. Another is set for July 12, but the location and details are still in the formative stages.

Although at the center of the saga that began Nov. 28, 2012, the day she was diagnosed with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma – an inoperable brain tumor – McKenzie has been going to school virtually every day, playing basketball and soccer, spending quality family time, hanging with friends, and caring for her horse, Star, her puppy, Marshmallow, and her bird, Sparkle – not to mention fishing, bowling, roller skating, horseback riding and playing golf while visiting relatives in Florida.

In other words, she’s living the life of a typically active, happy girl on the verge of becoming a teenager.

Bennett, meanwhile, said he was immediately drawn to the bright-eyed, eager girl, her family and her plight.

“She reminds me a lot of my daughter when she was that age,” he said, recalling how devastated he was when he was diagnosed – not just because of the grim diagnosis, but that he wouldn’t live to see his daughter grow up.

“I’ll be there (Wednesday) night, watching her graduate from high school,” he said.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).