A LITTLE girl who has undergone pioneering cancer treatment in America came back home to the North-East today. (Tuesday, November 4)

Charlotte Watson has been in Jacksonville, Florida, for the last seven weeks after being diagnosed with a malignant tumour in her right eye.

The four-year-old, from Stanley, County Durham, has been having proton beam therapy after funding was granted by the NHS.

Charlotte, a pupil at St Mary’s RC Primary School, in South Moor, has been in America with her parents, Malcolm and Laura.

Her uncle, Jonathan McKenzie, said: “The proton treatment was suitable for Charlotte’s condition because of the location of her tumour.

“If Charlotte was given conventional radiotherapy the side effects could have been substantial, given that when a growing child is exposed to the cancer killing radiation, the treated area may not grow at the same rate as the rest of her.”

Proton beam therapy is a new treatment, unavailable in this country, and hit the headlines earlier this year when the parents of five-year-old Ashya King were arrested after taking him abroad for the treatment.

Mr McKenzie, 30, said: “Proton therapy uses a beam of protons, which means the exact location of the treatment can be precisely controlled.

“They can even control how deep the protons penetrate into the body, reducing the severity of the long term side effects.

“Proton therapy is only beneficial to approximately one per cent of cancer sufferers, so Charlotte was very lucky.”

Mr McKenzie has created a fund in her name called ‘Charlotte's Challenge, with the aim of raising awareness of Proton Beam Therapy and raising a £10,000 for Clic Sargent, a charity that helps families in UK dealing with childhood cancers.

He said: “Charlotte is a genuine inspiration in the way she has coped with her treatment, even at her lowest points when her chemotherapy has her feeling her lowest she can still give you a smile, or even just a rub on your hand.

“She has never complained about losing her hair, she’s just excited it might be a different colour when it grows back.”

Charlotte has two more sessions of chemotherapy left at the RVI in Newcastle, after that, when the scar tissue in her eye, caused by the proton therapy, subsides she will be given an MRI scan to assess the success of the treatment.

Mr McKenzie said: “Charlotte has no choice in the challenge she faces, but she gets on with it, she’s always smiling, she just keeps fighting.

“She has a good prognosis and her doctors are hoping she is almost out of the woods, just in time for Christmas.”

To support Charlotte’s Challenge log on to: www.justgiving.com/Jonny-McKenzie2/