HUDSON — Time is running out for a Hudson sixth-grader suffering from a rare and aggressive form of brain cancer, though her family and friends are holding out hope that an experimental drug might help save her life.
It's been nearly a year since McKenzie Lowe, 12, began complaining of headaches and double vision. By Thanksgiving of last year, the Hudson Memorial School student had received a devastating diagnosis: an inoperable tumor known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, or DIPG.
Since then, the shy, dark-haired girl has endured several rounds of radiation and chemotherapy treatments at Boston Children's Hospital, according to her grandfather, Frank LaFountain.
McKenzie, the daughter of Ron and Dianne Lowe, initially responded to treatment, however doctors warned that a relapse was likely since statistically the disease has an overall survival rate of nine months.
McKenzie's tumor shrank initially, but her most recent exams indicate the tumor is growing again.
The good news, doctors said, is that McKenzie is otherwise in good physical condition, and she's been medically cleared for further treatment with an experimental drug known as Antineoplastons (ANP).
The drug is currently in the process of research trials at Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski's clinic in Houston. The FDA currently classifies ANP as "investigational new drug," meaning it has yet to be approved for mainstream usage.
Health professionals agreed the medication, which has shown promise of curing DIPG in its early trials, appears to be the last remaining option for McKenzie.
According to the National Cancer Institute, a recent ANP study of 10 patients concluded that two of those patients saw their tumors diminish over time. Another three experienced partial tumor shrinkage, while the tumors of another three patients remained, though their conditions stabilized. In two of the study patients, the tumors continued to grow.
Minors aren't typically permitted to take part in ANP trials, and exceptions can be made only via special permission from the Food and Drug Administration. Right now, it's a race against time as those who know and love McKenzie are scrambling to obtain 100,000 signatures via an online petition.
The petition is being sent to Gov. Maggie Hassan, President Obama and the FDA.
"She's an incredible little girl," family friend Kim Frenette said this week. "With the exception of a little hair loss, you'd look at McKenzie and never imagine she's sick."
Frenette met McKenzie and her family last winter, when she learned that the girl was a lifelong horse lover who dreamed of one day having a horse of her own.
Since the Lowe family home wasn't equipped to house large animals, Frenette began thinking outside the box.
After reaching out to the owners of the Wait and See Farm in Hudson, as well as officials from the organization Another Chance for Horses, a charity that rescues horses bound for slaughter, Frenette soon found a very special Christmas surprise for McKenzie, as well as a permanent home for Star, a gentle brown and white horse who, like McKenzie, had once looked death in the eyes.
Now McKenzie's family is calling on the community to make sure McKenzie and Star will enjoy many happy years together."Over the past year, McKenzie has become a part of my family. She calls me her second mom," Frenette said. "I don't want to lose this new daughter of mine."As of Tuesday evening, the online petition on Change.org had garnered more than 3,000 signatures.
Those wishing to sign the petition may do so by clicking here.