VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side continues to follow Landon’s story — and his fight against cancer — with a look at a unique treatment at the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute.
The institute is marketed as the largest, free-standing proton therapy center in the world. A machine at the institute can deliver targeted doses of radiation to a specific spot to kill cancerous tumors.
The targeted treatment focuses only on the cancerous tumor and doesn’t damage other healthy tissue.
Landon Sanderl received this innovative proton therapy for a month in 2015.
“The laser lights help us guide where we are treating and to get [the patient] into the right position to start with,” said Dr. Allan Thornton, Landon’s radiation oncologist.
Landon has a high-grade Ependymoma tumor, and statistics show of 100 patients, only 30 will survive 10 years. Dr. Thornton treated Landon at the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute.
“We were able to treat Landon because we have a really precise form of radiation that was able to avoid treating his brain stem and his visual system,” Dr. Thornton said.
While he is no longer undergoing treatment, other children are using it in hopes of being cancer free.
Dr. Thornton also treats Maddie Davis, who has the same type of tumor as Landon.
“I felt a pain in my leg, and it hurt real bad,” Maddie said.
Some of the side effects of proton therapy include radiation burns, irritation and itching. Maddie has radiation burns on the bottom of her back.
“The protons come out… and the laser lights help us guide where we are testing,” Dr. Thornton explained. “We then take X-rays to verify that and fine tune it.”
Maddie lays on a table and a gantry moves around her to get all angles of the tumor. Doctors can get the beam within one millimeter of her tumor.
Maddie received her last treatment Tuesday morning, and an MRI on Friday will show if the tumor is gone.
Landon had the same treatment with mixed success. But his mother says, “I am extremely satisfied with proton therapy… I also believe the combination between the chemo and the proton therapy he was on before have collectively helped.”
Sadly, due to the spread of his tumor, Landon’s treatment options are limited because his cells have outsmarted the chemotherapy and the radiation. There in is our call to action.
“I believe Landon will probably need genetic therapy at this point as his next avenue of treatment, and that is very much under the investigational stage, which is why we need more funding in this country for basic research,” Dr. Thornton said. “This is why we need the research. Landon is a prime example of that.”
Jillian was philosophical on her son’s status.
“I don’t have blinders on… I want the facts, the good, the bad and the ugly — yes.”
Jillian is waiting for the next miracle, and she remains positive.
“At 10-months-old the doctors told us he had a 10 to 15 percent chance to make it to age five.”
Today, Landon is 12 and is a courageous fighter who only wants to live.
“My biggest strength is watching Landon and the way he pulls through, and it is a huge inspiration,” his mother said.
Jillian and Landon are surrounded by a loving family. Jillian notes how loving and helpful her parents have been, and everywhere you look, there are pictures of that, and there a pictures of a family’s cycle of life. In all of Landon’s challenges, he has been blessed with a new little brother. Last May 16, Shawn was born to Jillian and her boyfriend, who is also named Shawn.
“Landon’s love for his little brother, I have never seen… The encouragement I see when Landon looks at his little brother, and he goes and runs and gives him a hug to tell him how much he loves him… This is another piece of legacy, Landon’s baby bro. His favorite person.”
DONATE: Team Landon | Team Andy
It is clear that the efforts of Team Landon to raise money in competition with Team Andy under the WAVY team is very impressive. Team Landon has raised $4,000. Team Andy is way behind with $300. 100 percent of all Cycle for Survival money raised goes towards cancer research. The Cycle for Survival event is Sunday on Virginia Beach Boulevard.
This weekend, come out and support Landon at a fundraiser car wash. It takes place Saturday, May 6 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the BP gas station on Laskin/First Colonial Road.