THE parents of an Irish toddler suffering from a rare brain tumour have been told the cancer is gone after an "extraordinary response" to specialised treatment in New York.
Tumours on Megan Malone's spine also appear to have been completely cured, leading to hopes that she could be able to start playschool with her friends in September.
The three-and-a-half year old, from Kilnamartyra in Co Cork, was diagnosed last October with a rare cancerous brain tumour called sPNET medullablastoma.
It is was also discovered that the cancer had spread to her spine and the rest of her brain.
The condition is so rare that only two children in Ireland a year are diagnosed with it.
The toddler was given a less than 20pc chance of survival in Ireland, where no treatment for her condition is available.
However, her parents were told if they could get Megan to New York immediately, she would have at least a 50/50 chance.
Megan and her family, including three young siblings, moved to New York last December where she was accepted for a specialist programme of treatment called 'Head Start' at the city's Presbyterian Hospital under cancer specialist Dr James Garvin and brain surgeon Dr Saadi Ghatan.
On Friday, four months after Megan commenced treatment, her parents John and Sheila were given the results of the youngster's latest MRI scan, which have amazed doctors.
"We could not have asked for better news. The MRI scans were reviewed by the medical team and the results are amazing. Megan's brain now has no evidence of cancer," Megan's dad John Malone confirmed yesterday.
"Dr Garvin told us there is complete response in the brain and that the main tumour is gone.
"We are in shock and just can't believe it. Dr Garvin told us that this is a unique situation. Most brain tumours of this nature and magnitude are surgically removed first before chemo and many still require radiotherapy to completely remove them."
Megan did not require to have any part of her main tumour surgically removed, as the chemotherapy alone has removed it.
The Malones have been told that such results have been recorded in the past, but that such cases are few and far between.
There was further good news for the Malones this week with confirmation that the tumours on Megan's spine have also almost completely cleared.
John Malone said: "Dr Ghatan and Dr Garvin examined Megan's spinal scans in great detail. They were both amazed. In a nutshell, they cannot be 100pc sure right now, but there are very strong indications that there is little or no tumours remaining.
"This result has completely blown our minds. It is more than we could have ever hoped for at this stage of the treatment. We are waking up in the night still in disbelief," Mr Malone added.
Megan's medical team is now recommending that they skip the fifth Head Start cycle and instead start straight into the high-dose final chemo cycle.
Megan's next MRI scan will take place in eight weeks, but the Malones are confident that they can return to Ireland in time for Megan to start playschool in September. It had been feared that Megan would have to stay in the US for up to three years.
"We're still hoping that Megan will be cured without having to go through any radiotherapy.
"Our original plan to get home by September is now looking likely if every- thing works out," Mr Malone added.
A massive fundraising campaign in Ireland has already raised over €180,000, while an anonymous benefactor has offered to cover the cost of Megan's treatment in the US, which could be as much as €300,000.