By Kay Quinn
KSDK - Ten months ago, we told you the remarkable story of a little girl from Poland who came all the way to St. Louis in the hopes of finding treatment for an inoperable brain tumor.
Dominika Sztuk returned to Poland a few weeks after undergoing a special form of radiation at St. Louis University Hospital.
Doctors are seeing dramatic changeson brain scans sent from half way around the world.
Dominika was just eight when doctors in her hometown told her parents they couldn't operate anymore on her tumor. So her mother went door-to-door, and collected enough money from neighbors to fly her daughter to the U.S. After doctors in New York declined to see her, neurosugerons in St. Louis stepped forward to offer her a highly specialized radiation treatment.
Dr. Ann Marie Flannery, a St. Louis University Pediatric Neurosurgeon, says, "The tumor, when she came to us, was very large and on the picture it just filled up, it seemed like, half of her head."
Dominika’s tumor had taken her appetite, energy and ability to concentrate. Through the generosity of St. Louis University Hospital, the little girl, who had traveled more than seven thousand miles for medical help was given five Cyberknife treatments. Radiation was delivered by a robotic arm that’s also used to build cars.
"What happens is that the robot can be moved to 1,200 different positions, and at each position it can fire off a beam of radiation, and by precisely designing a treatment you can expose the brain to a very small amount of radiation, and the tumor to a large surgical amount of radiation," says Dr. Flannery.
Months later, the big white spot that indicated her tumor is gone. All that remain of the tumor on this recent MRI sent from doctors in Poland are white flecks.
"It was better than I ever expected," says Dr. Flannery.
The initial hope was that the cyberknife would stop the tumor from growing. The fact that much of it appears gone is even more encouraging.
So are the recently-sent thank you card and pictures of Dominika's first communion, all indications of a little girl whose energy has returned.
"We heard reports that she herself was doing much better. All of the symptoms that she had when she came to see us, the trouble with eating, the headaches, the difficulty concentrating, had completely disappeared, and she was back in school, so that was exciting. It was thrilling," says Dr. Flannery.
And while it's not yet a cure, Dr. Flannery calls it a dramatic response. She hopes to see another scan in a few months.
She says Dominika could even be a candidate for more treatments if the tumor returns.