His fight less difficult thanks to the medical breakthroughs

Son combat moins difficile grâce aux percées médicales

SAINT-JÉRÔME | A 11-year old boy with leukemia makes good use of medical advances that can treat the cancer while limiting the side effects.

There are barely three years old, the leukemia Zackary Arsenault, a native of Saint-Jérôme, in the Laurentians, could not be so treated (see text below).

However, as his parents, Steve Arsenault, and Melissa Villemaire accepted that it participates in a new research protocol at Harvard University, Boston, United States, Zackary enjoys a chemotherapy regimen better adapted and less invasive. His hair remained almost intact, and his body suffers less.

“I didn’t want my son to be a guinea pig,” recalls Mr. Arsenault.

“This is not an easy choice for parents. Melissa was more confident than me. We had long discussions. I had to ask at least 30 questions and request statistics, ” he continued.

The young supporter of the Toronto Maple Leafs played a game of ball hockey in the month of last may, when his parents realized something was wrong.

“It was one or two matches that he was driving less. He had less breath. Then, he started to run a fever and complain of headaches, ” says Ms. Villemaire.

Hampered by the disease

The diagnosis came on may 29. He spent the following month at the Sainte-Justine hospital to begin his fight against the disease.

The young athlete has had to put an end to his school year and his summer ball hockey. He also made a cross on the season ice hockey and skiing.

The family has had to cancel his trip to Florida planned at the end of the summer to visit Walt Disney World and other parks.

“I look forward to seeing Legoland,” says Zackary, who is sure that this trip will take place a little later.

Surrounded by his parents, the avid Lego blocks, has fought his shyness and answered the questions of the Newspaper sitting at the table of his kitchen because he wants to make know the CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation, for which he has collected donations with his father.


Because of the weakness of the immune system, of Zachary, the trips are more rare, and it may not even attend school.

Aware that it is less work, Tiffany, 8 years old, and Victoria, 9 years old, do not want their brother and are very caring with him, says their mom.

Fortunately, there are also positive to the boy that the treatments are going well. As soon as the next month ended the dietary restrictions of the absorption of fat.

“I can’t wait to start eating bacon, cheese, and croissants,” says Zackary, imagining a possible lunch.

Zachary and his team have collected up to now 30 $ 587 for the triathlon for the Sainte-Justine UHC Foundation, which will take place on February 21.

Treatment is more responsive to patients

For the past three years, treatments with precision enable children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia to receive care better suited.

“Before, we relied on two markers to determine the risk of recurrence in the patient : the age, and white blood cells,” explains Dr. Thai Hoa Tran, hematologist-oncologist and pediatric researcher at the centre hospitalier universitaire Sainte-Justine.

As soon as a child was 10 years old, it was felt that he had to be at high risk of recurrence and the treatment was chosen accordingly.

Because of his age, Zackary Arsenault would have been subjected to powerful chemotherapy treatments that would have led to the fall of his hair, nausea, and that could cause sequelae in the heart.

However, advances in genetics allow a diagnosis of the risk of recurrence more accurate.

Better tools

“We have better tools that allow us to combine the factors of risk [traditional], the genetics and the response to the first treatment [chemotherapy] to adapt the care,” says Dr. Tran, who follows the boy.

In the case of Zackary, the results showed that his risk of recidivism was low. The doctors have been able to reduce the intensity of chemotherapy without reducing the chance of remission, but limiting the side effects.

He visits now the Sainte-Justine hospital once a week to undergo his treatments and follow up.

Like other children that participate in the same research protocol, the case of Zackary is closely studied. Researchers pool the data they gather to further their research.

The 15 February is the international Day of the cancer of the child.

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