TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The trial to determine whether two Tampa Bay area parents will regain custody of their cancer-stricken son begins today.
Joshua McAdams and Taylor Bland-Ball refused the recommended chemotherapy treatment after 3-year-old Noah was diagnosed with leukemia earlier this year.
The child had two rounds of chemo at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.
When Bland-Ball and McAdams missed scheduled treatments at All Children’s and left the state with Noah after two rounds of treatment in late April, investigators obtained a court order to take Noah into custody, ordering that he resume chemotherapy.
The case, which has garnered national attention, calls into question what effective alternative treatments are and why the state intervened at all.
Dr. Bijal Shah, an associate at the Moffitt Cancer Center’s and clinical director of the acute lymphoblastic leukemia program, says that there is no scientific research to support the efficacy of treatments with cannabis, which Bland-Ball and McAdams were seeking as an alternative to chemotherapy.
“Specifically, there’s no data to support marijuana instead of standard chemotherapy treatment,” Shah said. “Cancer Center of America does employ other approaches along with standard treatment, such as alternative diet along with treatment, but I don’t think any of them are scientifically proven to alter or enhance the success of the treatment.”
Shah, who is not involved in the case, says Bland-Ball and McAdams also should have been made aware the importance of a smooth transition of care was as they looked for other providers.
“During the acute or beginning phase of chemotherapy, we have to act fast and the timeline plays a key role in reducing the chance of relapse,” Shah said. “If you try something else in the middle of the first phase of treatment, our ability to achieve remission drops considerably.”
According to the American Cancer Society, more than 95% of children with acute lymphocytic leukemia enter remission after 1 month of induction treatment. However, maintaining that remission through what Shah calls “maintenance chemotherapy” takes about two-and-a-half years.
Without it, scientists say relapses are frequent.
This year, data from the University of Alabama looked at how long-term remission relates to how well patients comply with one of the key maintenance drugs.
What they found is that at least half of those in the study who relapsed did so because of “poor exposure,” whether it’s intolerance or them simply not taking the drug.
“We all want the best for Noah and for his family,” Shah said. “We know that there is a lot of stress that extends to the family and I hope he is reunited with his parents while getting the necessary treatment.”