Saving Derek From Paralysis

FRESNO, Calif.

But, for some cancers, it still takes a combination of theories, therapies, and some innovation, to find a cure. Now, we show you how all three came together to save a boy named Derek.

Wheelchair ping pong may look tough, but it's nothing compared to what 12 year old Derek Anderson has been through. Just weeks after successful treatment for bone cancer, Derek was suddenly paralyzed.

"It just, all of a sudden everything stopped moving," Derek Anderson, 12 years old, told Ivanhoe.

Body scans revealed a relapse like nothing doctors had ever seen. A tennis ball-sized tumor on his spinal cord.

"It was a big massive tumor, there was literally like about a 90 degree bend in the cervical spine from the tumor," Michael Joyce, M.D., Pediatric Oncologist at Nemours Children's Clinic, said.

At Jacksonville's Wolfson Children's Hospital, a team of specialists launched an aggressive treatment plan.

"The most important thing was taking care of the cancer because if we didn't take care of that everything else would be for naught," Ian Heger, M.D., Pediatric Neurosurgeon at Wolfson Children's Hospital, added.

The real breakthrough came from a treatment they'd never used on a child. A powerful, adult drug called Mozobil kick-started Anderson's stem cell production for a lifesaving bone marrow transplant.

"With one dose we got enough stem cells to do his transplant, we were very happy," Dr. Joyce explained. "I am very excited that I have no more cancer in my body," Anderson stated.

Now, after fusion surgery to stabilize his spine and nearly a year of therapy, Anderson's getting back on his feet…literally.

"I think the sky is really the limit for him. I don't think there's any doubt in my mind he's going to be walking and running," Dr. Heger concluded.

A courageous boy with a lot to smile about.

Anderson is believed to be the first childhood cancer patient to be treated with a drug called Mozobil. Not only can this drug boost stem cell production, doctors say it can also speed up post-transplant recovery.

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at

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