Mother, son move from Israel to Augusta for Pediatric brain cancer clinical trial

6-year-old Eliya Smadga moved from Israel to Augusta with his mom to participate in a clinical trial for his brain cancer.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Not even a large body of water could keep one mother from doing all she could to help save her son.  That is exactly what separated Chen Smadga from the hope she needed.

“He smiles, he’s happy, he’s playing,” she described her son now.

Six-year-old Eliya feels a whole lot better than he did before last summer. That is what his mother told a group of Augusta University supporters learning about an ongoing clinical trial at the Georgia Cancer Center.

She explained, “We came here and started with an MRI. It showed that the tumor is getting smaller.”

Smadga told NewsChannel 6 her son was two-years-old when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. After surgery and chemotherapy, the tumor reemerged. And the second time around, she said he tried radiation.

“One month after the radiation, the cancer is back again and the doctor told us there is nothing more to do,” Smadga said.

But there was something this mother could do, she said she scanned the Internet and learned about Pediatric Immunotherapy. After consulting with her son’s doctor, they relocated from Israel to Augusta.

“Pediatric brain tumors is where we started and one of the reasons is because they are very debilitating tumors,” said Dr. Ted Johnson, Co-Founder of the Pediatric Immunotherapy Program with Dr. David Munn. “There are very few treatments for relapse cases.”

The Phase 1 clinical trial uses a patient’s immune system to attack cancer. And that therapy added with chemo and radiation helps, according to Dr. Johnson.

“Every time you get a dose of chemotherapy or a day of radiation, you actually can get more benefit from that because the immune system can come back over the next several days and create more tumor damage than the chemo or radiation alone would have,” he said.

Dr. Munn discovered IDO in the 1990s, the enzyme that began the Pediatric Immunotherapy Program. Fast forward to 2018 and children such as Eliya can run, play, attend games and do all of their favorite things another day.

“We are really in the right place. We trust and believe in this treatment,” she said.

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