A Chatteris schoolgirl's fundraising efforts have helped support vital new research into a rare and aggressive subtype of childhood leukaemia, six years after she was diagnosed with it.

Kayla Hay was diagnosed with the Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (PH+ALL) in 2017, when she was just five years old.

She is now in remission, having endured surgery and hundreds of doses of intense chemotherapy, and even having to learn to walk again due to the effects of her gruelling treatment.

Cambs Times: Kayla endured hundreds of doses of chemo during her treatment.Kayla endured hundreds of doses of chemo during her treatment. (Image: FAMILY)

In 2019, her parents, Siana and Aaron, set up Kayla's Rainbow Appeal, a Special Named Fund at children's cancer and leukaemia group (CCLG), to raise money for research into Kayla’s type of cancer, because they wanted to improve future treatments for other young patients.

Siana said: "The poor prognosis we received for Kayla really gave us the drive to change things for future generations.


'Kayla had a difficult journey' 


“Kayla had a difficult journey. The treatment was brutal, and no child should have to go through that. The drugs being used to save her, nearly killed her due to a bowel perforation at one point.

“We were incredibly lucky that she pulled through with the support of her amazing team at Addenbrooke's Hospital.

“From the bottom of our hearts, we want to say thank you - it really does mean the world to us all.”

Dr Gillian Horne, of the University of Glasgow, is leading this important new research that aims to understand more about a new variant of Ph+ALL, called 'chronic myeloid leukaemia-like Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia'.


Some patients do not respond to treatment


Some patients with this disease don’t respond well to treatment, and doctors think this may be because their cancer is more similar to another type of leukaemia, called chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML).

This cancer needs very different treatments to Ph+ALL, which could explain why these patients don’t respond as well to standard treatment.

Dr Horne said: “We want to understand more about patients with this new variant of Philadelphia positive acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, called ‘CML-like Ph+ALL’.

“This is hugely important because, if we find that there are patients in this group that don’t do as well with standard treatment, we can make sure to use more intensive treatment approaches from the start.

“There is still so much to know about this variant of leukaemia and our project will take us one step closer to uncovering the intricacies of this disease.

“Our ultimate aim is to improve patient outcomes, particularly for children that don’t respond as well to current standard treatment approaches."

Cambs Times: Kayla is now in remission.Kayla is now in remission. (Image: FAMILY)


Vicki Brunt, head of fundraising at CCLG, said: “Seeing projects like Dr Horne's being funded is fantastic - it really is the ultimate goal for many of our Special Named Fund families.

“We are proud to be supporting research into rare cancer types like Ph+ALL. Every child with cancer deserves a bright future, with a long and happy life, free from the effects of cancer and its treatment. This project is one step towards that future.”

Find out more about Kayla’s fund and donate at: https://specialnamedfunds.cclg.org.uk/kaylas-rainbow-appeal/

Kayla, now in remission, has been involved in fundraising from the start, keen to make a difference for children like herself, and Siana spoke of her daughter’s pride at being able to fund this new research.

Siana said: "When we told her that we were funding a research project, Kayla was over the moon. The pride on her face was a beautiful sight. She couldn’t wait to phone her family and friends to tell them.

“We owe a lot to our local community, who have outdone themselves time and time again. They not only support us financially but also by letting us use venues and equipment whenever we need. We couldn’t have done this without them."