New cancer drug saves baby girl

Local News

The FDA just approved a new cancer drug that’s already showing promise treating adults and children.  Researchers say It works entirely differently than chemotherapy, and doctors believe it could be transformative in the field of precision medicine. That’s already been the case for one little girl and her family who saw dramatic results.

Looking at Rihanna Plaza today, you would never know that she was born with a tumor the size of her newborn head.

“I just cried, I knew something was bad. Why did it have to be rare, and why did it have to be my daughter?” said her mother Ana.

Rihanna started intensive chemotherapy right away, but after several months, the massive, cancerous tumor in her arm was not shrinking. The family connected with doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center testing a new drug called Vitrakvi. It  targets a specific gene mutation in Rihanna’s tumor.

At Sloan Kettering, Dr. Neal Shukla said, “Rather than going after tumors based on where they originate, this treatment targets cancers with a certain gene mutation.”

And he added, “We are really trying to move away from treating patients based on just where the cancer arises and really treating them based on what makes the cancer tick.”

Rihanna received the drug twice a day at home and her parents saw immediate results–within days.

She also had no side effects and within months the tumor became small enough for  doctors to perform surgery – without compromising the function of her arm. Today, all that’s left is a scar:

It’s been 9 months since Rihanna’s last treatment. Her parents are blown away she’s cancer free. The almost two-year-old shows no signs of slowing down.  

Researchers say the drug has been effective in treating 11 other cancers including lung and colon.  

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