The 'Miracle' Boy Who Fought Childhood Cancer And Won
Jullian Adoncello is a fighter.
His mum Rosalie said he was born that way.
"Jullian is our joy and our miracle," she told 10 News First.
It's hard for her not to get emotional when talking about her brave 13-year-old.
He was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma -- a childhood cancer that attacks the glands -- when he was three. He doesn't remember much about the treatment.
"They started putting it through my nose first, not my chest or anything and it just tickled a bit going through, but the rest wasn't that bad," he told 10 News First.
But it was.
The doctors hit him hard with everything they had.
Eight rounds of chemotherapy, 12 rounds of radiotherapy, surgery to remove tumours and his stem cells, and then a bone marrow transplant. All up it took almost two years.
The treatment worked for Jullian, but half of kids with stage four neuroblastoma aren't so lucky -- and because children are still growing, the treatment hits them hard.
Jullian is now living with permanent side effects.
"When I lose baby teeth I don't have adult teeth underneath, so they don't grow and I normally have to get surgery," Jullian explained.
That surgery is to pull out baby teeth and put in implants. He says the whole process could take until he's 30.
He also has hearing problems and joint pain that could develop into arthritis. It makes playing soccer, which he loves, painful.
But researchers at the Children's Medical Research Institute are working toward a brighter future for these kids, with a new research facility called ProCan trying to fight the disease.
"'ProCan' is a laboratory which is designed to analyse proteins in cancers,' Professor Roger Reddel, the director of the Children's Medical Research Institute, said.
His team want to understand why a treatment that is effective against one patient's cancer may not work in another patient whose cancer looks identical.
The end goal is to create a giant database to help match a person's individual cancer with the best possible treatment.
"So that they have the best possible chance of cure, with the least possible side effects," Professor Reddel said.
CMRI showed 10 News First around their purpose-built lab.
Inside are machines that are turning physical cancer samples from children, and adults, into digital files so they can be anaylsed.
Top cancer researchers from Australia and around the world are sending samples in, and the team has also recently developed a way to make the machines operate around the clock.
"What this means is we can analyse thousands of proteins in huge numbers of cancers," Professor Reddel said.
And the ProCan team has already made a vital finding about the type of cancer Jullian had.
After examining 40 neuroblastoma cancer samples and closely-related cancers, the researchers have been able to distinguish these very aggressive cancers from related cancer types that are less aggressive.
Professor Reddel says it's a 'crucial' first step in the project's key objective -- to increase the speed and accuracy of cancer diagnosis, and eventually discover new treatments.
It’s why Jullian and his mum are throwing their support behind CMRI.
"There's going to be a cure eventually, there is now, kinda, like one worked for me but I want it to work for other people, not just me," Jullian said.
Jullian recently celebrated 10 years in remission.
His mum said research is the key to ensuring other children also survive.
"They could reduce the time that children spend in hospital, the treatments that they need to have and the long term effects that come with all the treatment," Rosalie said.
The Institute is a registered charity and relies on grants and generous donations to carry out its important work.
"Every dollar that we receive for this project allows us to do more," Professor Reddel said.
This Christmas it set a $100,000 fundraising goal -- money which will help obtain vital information from more than 1300 cancer samples.
To donate, head to the Children's Medical Research Institute website.