Like many other international patients who are treated by the Pediatric Oncology Department of the SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital, Félix had been diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma (retinal cancer) when he was only a few months old. The little one and his mother arrived in the city from Venezuela when he was almost two years old, with one eye already removed and the hope of saving his vision in his other eye and, above all, his life.
After being treated with intra-arterial chemotherapy for six months, the tumour became inactive and the child returned home. However, eight months later, he suffered a relapse and the family immediately set plans in motion to return to Barcelona. "I trusted the hospital and its doctors and knew that they would try everything so that Félix could get better", explains Keisa, Félix's mother. After a long journey to return to the hospital, the child was finally evaluated by the centre's retinoblastoma team. "They suggested that he would participate in a clinical trial because all other potential treatment options had already been exhausted", recalls the patient's mother.
This oncolytic adenovirus is applied in aggressive cases of retinoblastoma
"Intra-arterial chemotherapy is an effective and safe treatment, but even so there are more aggressive tumors that reactivate, as in the case of Félix. Therefore, seeing that we did not obtain a response with this treatment, it was decided together with the ophthalmologist Jaume Català (specialist in retinoblastoma) to include the child in the clinical trial of oncolytic adenovirus", summarizes Genoveva Correa, oncologist at the SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital.
Oncolytic adenovirus VCN-01 is an experimental virus that replicates only in tumor cells and destroys them. Its application in the experimental treatment of retinoblastoma arose from a joint project of the biotechnology company VCN Biosciences and the laboratories of the SJD barcelona Children's Hospital. Félix responded quickly and very favorably to this treatment and, after receiving it, he also underwent cycles of intraarterial and intravitreal chemotherapy until the tumor was inactivated. "It has been in complete remission for months," concludes Dr Correa, who recalls that this study for eye tumors is performed only at SJD Barcelona Children's Hospital.
"This clinical trial, co-led by oncologist and researcher Guillermo Chantada, was created specifically for patients with retinoblastoma and with Félix has given very good results," emphasizes the oncologist. "Félix is 4 years old and his remaining eye allows him to play and enjoy his childhood just like any other child of his age", concludes Dr Correa. His mother, Keisa, recalls that "he used to be bad-natured, although he cooperated well during treatments, but he was often irritated and didn't want to play". Keisa affirms that, despite their difficulties in returning to Barcelona and having to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, she believes it was worth taking a risk so that her son could be treated here. "The team has saved his life and Félix is in much better spirits. Thanks to this clinical trial to combat retinoblastoma, he's able to carry on enjoying life".