Molly Biederman suffers from a type of kidney cancer called Wilms' Tumour. It usually only affects children under the age of five. If caught early enough there's an 85% chance of a cure, but Molly's cancer is very advanced and has already spread to her lungs.
Doctors have been treating Molly with chemotherapy since her diagnosis eight months ago. Her weakened immune system means she doesn't spend much time with other children in case she picks up an infection.
Great Ormond Street Hospital only sees ten or twelve children each year suffering from Wilms' Tumour and very few in the advanced stages like Molly. Surgeons removed her right kidney along with a tumour four months ago, but they still have to remove three secondary tumours on her lungs. She's been having chemotherapy to try and shrink them before she undergoes major surgery to have them removed.
Molly's consultant, Dr Gill Levitt specialises in Wilms' Tumour. She's worked in Great Ormond Street's cancer unit for the past twenty years. She tells us of Molly "When we removed the kidney we found that 95% of the cancer cells were dead, which was really very encouraging. It meant the chemotherapy was certainly working, but it hasn't reduced the size of the big masses as much as we would have liked".
Dr Levitt is hoping that a revolutionary scanning technique, currently being trailed on children, will reveal if Molly's cancer is still active.
Molly attends University College London Hospital to have a PET scan, the state-of-the-art imaging technique that shows cellular activity in the body. PET scans have only been used on adults for two years and hardly ever on children. Molly's doctors are hoping it will help them establish if the cancer cells in her tumours are dead or alive. Molly will be injected with a sugar-based radioactive substance. The mixture should pick up any active cancerous cells and highlight them on the scanner.
Because of the small amount of radiation in the scanning room, Molly's mother Emma, who is five months pregnant, has been advised to stay in the adjacent room.
The results of Molly's PET scan will be back in a couple of days, but until her tumours have been surgically removed and examined under a microscope, doctors wont be absolutely sure if they contain active cancer cells.
Prof. Martin Elliott
The results, when they arrive, look like bad news. It appears the three tumours in her chest are still active. The operation to remove them is set to take place in a matter of days. A CT scan shows that one of the tumours on Molly's lung is dangerously close to her heart. Professor Martin Elliott is worried that this may prove to be inoperable.
He will perform two operations, The first will involve making an incision on the right side of Molly's chest which should give him access to at least two of the tumours. He will attempt to remove the tumour on the left side of her chest at a later date,
An hour into the surgery, Professor Elliot finds the first tumour. It's stuck to the wall of Molly's chest. It should be relatively easy to remove so he decides to move on and take the one close to her heart. This is the part of the surgery that Professor Elliott is most concerned about. The tumour is hidden among blood vessels and arteries which connect the heart and lungs. It may prove too dangerous to cut out.
He ends up having to cut out a small bit of the heart membrane and a section of the lung to get the tumour out
The operation has taken three hours and has gone as well as could be expected, but the future for Molly is still uncertain. The tumours will be sent to a laboratory for analysis, the results will determine if her cancer is still active.
The Tumour Removed from Molly
The histology results are good; No malignant cells were left alive. With this news, Dr Levitt informs Emma and Rob that there should be no need for the final operation. Molly will need to continue her chemotherapy for at least another six months.
Four week later, back home, she's well enough to start her first day at primary school.
Sadly, nearly four month after Molly started school, the cancer struck again. This time in a form that was resistant to the chemotherapy. On December 30th, two months to the day after the birth of her sister Megan, Molly died peacefully at Great Ormond Street Hospital.
CREDITS: All of this information came from the UK Channel 5 "Child in a Million" documentary series