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'Miracle' cancer recovery for Ashya

The parents of five-year-old Ashya King, who were jailed when they took him abroad for brain cancer treatment, have declared their son has made a " miracle" recovery.

They said his life was saved because he was given innovative proton therapy treatment not available for him on the NHS.

The Proton Therapy Centre (PTC) in Prague, where he received the treatment last year, said it was "thrilled" to hear news that a recent scan showed no sign of a tumour.

Ashya's mother Naghmeh, who alongside her husband Brett sparked an international manhunt last summer by removing the little boy from hospital in Southampton without medical consent, told the Sun the news was "incredible".

"If we had left Ashya with the NHS in Britain, he would not be with us today. He was too weak and would not have survived," she told the newspaper.

Ashya was finally allowed to undergo treatment at the PTC for brain cancer after a long legal battle fought by his parents and he has since been recovering in Spain.

Jana Kulhankova, marketing director at the centre, said she had not seen the latest scan but has been in regular contract with Ashya's doctor, Hernan Cortes-Funes, since his treatment ended.

"Ashya's doctor told me last week that Ashya is doing so well that he is able to release him for rehabilitation.

"If the scans are showing that Ashya is cancer-free, as Mr King says, than we are thrilled, that is what we have worked for.

"We have no reason to doubt Mr King - he does all that is best for his child."

Ashya's father Brett said his son's condition now justifies their actions in taking him from Southampton General Hospital last August to Spain, where they have a holiday home.

He said: "We have saved his life", adding that they would do the same thing again if they felt they had to.

The Kings were arrested in Spain after fleeing the UK and spent several nights in prison away from their son, before being released .

A High Court judge approved the move to take Ashya to Prague for proton therapy, which the PTC said is more effective than the radiotherapy Ashya was being offered on the NHS.

It limits the collateral damage of radiation to other vital organs, such as the heart and liver in Ashya's case. This would lead to less severe long-term side-effects including heart and breathing problems.

The centre said it has helped dozens of children to recover from cancer.

The therapy was not available for him on the NHS, although the health service later agreed to fund Ashya's treatment.

The family, who have previously spoken of their apprehension over returning to the UK for fear social services would get involved, are staying in Marbella where Ashya will continue his recovery.

Dr Nick Plowman, senior clinical oncologist at Great Ormond Street children's hospital, told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "It's very gratifying to hear that he is in remission, and if time goes on and he holds that remission, hopefully that equates with cure.

"I do not agree that he could not have been in a similar situation had he had orthodox X-ray radiotherapy, which is going on to a very high standard in all the departments in this country.

"That's not to say there are no advantages of protons, but I think we could have achieved the remission he is in now with standard radiotherapy."

Dr Plowman added: "This country sends approximately 150 selected children to the United States for proton beam radiotherapy every year, so we recognise the advantages and send that number of children abroad for protons.

"The equipment is extremely expensive, and that's why it's been difficult for us to have access to as many machines as we want. To the credit of the NHS, we are funding two cyclotron-based proton systems for this country, in London and in Manchester, but it's taken so long in procurement that the technology has advanced during that procurement process.

"We believe that the newer-generation machines, in particular the machine invented by the particle physicists at Cern, will overtake and supplant the current cyclotron-based machines within a very short space of time."

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