- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2007

FLOYD, Va. — A 17-year-old who won a court battle against state officials who tried to force him to undergo chemotherapy for his lymphatic cancer is in remission following radiation treatments over the past year, the teen and his doctor said.

Starchild Abraham Cherrix’s case spurred debate on whether the government should get involved in family medical decisions. It also led to a state law named after him that gives Virginia teenagers and their parents the right to refuse doctor-recommended treatments for life-threatening ailments.

Tests show that the sole remaining tumor in Starchild’s body — a nickel-sized mass in his right lung — appears to be gone, radiation oncologist Dr. Arnold Smith told the Associated Press by telephone from his clinic in Greenwood, Miss.

Starchild is not cured, but “he is N.E.D., our abbreviation for ‘no evidence of disease.’ He’s in a total remission,” Dr. Smith said Thursday.

“There may be some microscopic tumor somewhere still there, but everything we see is gone,” Dr. Smith said.

Starchild said he understands that he is not cured. But he’s full of energy and optimism.

“I’ve been cancer-free four times now, but this time it looks much, much better,” he said Wednesday in Floyd, the southwest Virginia mountain town where he lives with his mother and four younger siblings. They moved there in May from Chincoteague, Va., an island across the state.

Starchild has Hodgkin’s disease, one of the most treatable forms of cancer.

He was so sickened by three months of chemotherapy that he refused a more intensive round and started drinking an herbal mix from a Mexico clinic. The tonic, called the Hoxsey method, is banned from sale in the United States, and the American Cancer Society says there is no proof it works.

Starchild’s then-oncologist alerted social-services officials, and the teen’s parents were charged with neglect. In August 2006, Starchild’s attorneys and social-services officials reached an agreement to allow the teen to forgo chemotherapy in favor of alternative therapies.

Starchild since has been under Dr. Smith’s care, traveling to Mississippi three times. Dr. Smith has been treating Starchild with concentrated doses of radiation and immunotherapy — medicines and supplements, including a form of Vitamin C, that he said bolster the immune system.

Dr. Smith initially treated a baseball-sized tumor on Starchild’s neck. In December, a scan showed five new tumors: one each in the lymph nodes under his arms, one near the collarbone and two in the left lung. Another scan in June revealed a tumor nodule on his right lung.

Art Caplan, director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania, doubted the immunotherapy had value. But he said Starchild’s seemingly improved health shows the state was right to intervene.

While Starchild is not getting the complete medical treatment that his original doctor wanted, the radiation means he’s getting most of it, Mr. Caplan said.

“He’d probably be dead by now if they [state officials] did not react,” Mr. Caplan said.

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