British cancer boy has good chance of recovery, say Czech doctors

British cancer boy has good chance of recovery, say Czech doctors

PRAGUE - Cancer-striken boy Ashya King, whose case grabbed headlines after his parents removed him from a British hospital, was undergoing scans in Prague Tuesday as Czech doctors said he could have a 70 per cent chance of survival.

The five-year-old's parents sparked an international manhunt after taking him from hospital in Britain last month, but doctors in Prague are hopeful lifesaving treatment could work if the tumour doesn't spread.

His parents Brett and Naghmeh King accompanied the boy to the Proton Therapy Center (PTC) in the Czech capital, where they arrived Monday after a British court allowed them to leave Spain and returned them full custody of the child.

Jan Stary, head of the Prague Motol hospital children's haematology and oncology clinic, where Ashya is also being examined, said he could begin to receive proton beam therapy next week.

He estimated that Ashya had a 70-per cent chance of survival if all the treatment went well.

Proton beam therapy is said to be more precise than traditional radiotherapy, allowing doctors to deliver higher doses of energy to a tumour while sparing surrounding healthy tissue.

The treatment is scheduled to start on September 15 and last six weeks.

On Monday, after his arrival in Prague from Spain, Ashya also underwent scans at the Motol hospital where he is staying with his mother.

Motol spokeswoman Dita Vaclavikova told AFP the "results of all scans will most probably be available on Wednesday evening".

Ashya has been in the middle of a legal saga that began when his desperate parents whisked him away from a hospital in Southampton in southern England against doctors' advice on August 28.

They were seeking proton therapy, unavailable in Britain, instead of the conventional radiotherapy treatment which they believed would turn Ashya into a "vegetable".

Treatment costs US$84,000 (S$105,800)

According to the PTC, the procedure costs about 1.8 million koruna (S$105,800) in the Czech Republic, compared with 108,000 euros in the United States.

The Kings have said they will sell a home they own in Malaga to fund Ashya's treatment. Donations are also reported to have flooded in from well-wishers since their case grabbed headlines in Britain.

Their sudden departure from Britain triggered a cross-border manhunt that saw the parents jailed for four days in Spain before being freed and emotionally reunited with Ashya at his bedside in a Spanish hospital.

Brett King, 51, took his son out of the Southampton hospital after claiming doctors there had blocked his attempts to take Ashya abroad for treatment and threatened to ask for a protection order.

But Peter Wilson, a paediatrician at Southampton General Hospital, said "at no stage" had the hospital threatened a court order.

"We said we would work with teams in Prague to allow them to go out there for radiation, as long it was in a safe manner." He said he was "horrified" by claims made by Ashya's father that they were "killing" Ashya.

King had suggested that his son had only "months to live", but doctor Michael Marsh, of University Hospital Southampton trust, said the chances of surviving the condition Ashya has were "about 70 to 80 per cent after five years".

The case received widespread coverage in the British media, with public opinion shifting from outrage to sympathy for his parents.

British prosecutors dropped the case against the parents acknowledging that Ashya had been properly cared for.

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