Boy With Rare Brain Tumor Beats All Odds After Given a Year to Live


"I think it's different because the whole infrastructure is different," said Tabatha Doyle, a registered nurse who is the coordinator of the brain tumor program. "It's a teamwork perspective. Everybody works together to make sure the patient is completely taken care of -- there's not anybody who feels like they are a more important member of the team than anyone else, even the physicians."

Dr. Amar Gajjar, Daniel's primary physician when he was admitted, described his role.

"The best way I can describe it is that I'm the conductor of the orchestra, so I make sure everything we've got designed for Daniel and his care is coordinated, and everything is going as we expect it to go," he said at the time.

For more than a decade, Gajjar has been pioneering an experimental protocol for children over age 3 with AT/RT, a protocol that could potentially save Daniel's life.

"Most patients have some side effects, some headaches, some nausea and vomiting," said clinic nurse Dori Parker. "[Daniel] comes in the clinic every time with a smile on his face and gives me a hug and tells me how happy he is to be in the clinic. And to see us. I mean, you can't get better than that."

Hope for 'Hopeless Children With Hopeless Diseases'

St. Jude is a research hospital, and to be accepted there a child must have a form of cancer under study, as Daniel did.

Actress Marlo Thomas spearheads the hospital's fundraising, which raises $600 million annually, making it one of the largest charities in the United States. Her dedication to the hospital is lifelong -- it was founded 51 years ago by her father.

"We are studying what we don't know, because we are a research center," Thomas told "Nightline" in 2008. "We are moving our science from the laboratory to the bedside to the patient very quickly."

Thomas said her father's commitment began long before he achieved fame and fortune as the star of TV's "Make Room for Daddy."

"He literally had $10 in his pocket, and it was going to cost $50 to get me and my mother out of the hospital," she recalled. "And so the sermon that day at church was on St. Jude, patron of hopeless cases. ... So he took out those little envelopes that they used to put in the baskets and he wrote on it 'Dear St. Jude, no one's more hopeless than I am. ... Just give me a sign that I'm going in the right direction.'

"The next day he got a call to play a singing toothbrush on the radio and the pay was $75. So all through his life he kept having these signs and so he kept saying to St. Jude, someday I will build a shrine to you and for you, and so that's when he decided that he would build a shrine that would be a living place of children, hopeless children with hopeless diseases."

Hopeless children like Daniel.

Dr. Thomas Merchant, the division chief of Radiation Oncology, told "Nightline" in 2008 that Daniel "had great surgery, he's getting excellent radiation, he's going to have very strong chemotherapy."

Still, Merchant acknowledged at the time that the survival rates for this type of cancer are "very low."

"I just can't even bring myself to say -- survival is not very common," he said.

Daniel underwent a series of MRIs to determine if the surgeons in upstate New York could remove the entire tumor in his brain and to see if cancer cells were still spreading.

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