At six months old, on September 1, 2005 Kelsey was diagnosed with cancer of the adrenal gland with at least six additional tumors that had spread into her lungs. By February 2006 her cancer had continued to spread into her liver.

The tumor in her adrenal gland was successfully removed with surgery, resulting in the loss of her left adrenal gland and left kidney. Her family was informed by the oncologists at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center that the only treatment available to address Kelsey’s cancer that had metastasized was chemotherapy.

The chemotherapy offered to treat Kelsey Hill was a combination of Mitotane (a chemotherapy that has no peer-reviewed histological studies to demonstrate it’s effectiveness or safety in children [Mayo clinic]), Doxorubicin (side effects include: leukemia, heart failure, infertility, vomiting, and mouth sores [ACS] —this chemotherapy has been poetically nick-named by doctors as “Red Death” [How Doctors Think]), Etoposide (side effects include: leukemia, nerve damage, inability to fight infections, and vomiting [ACS]), and Cisplatin (side effects include: kidney damage, hearing damage, nerve damage, infertility, and vomiting [ACS]).

While researching the chemotherapeutic agents M.D. Anderson was offering Kelsey, they noticed that the most recent FDA-approved chemotherapy they offered was Doxorubicin—which was approved in December of 1987. Etoposide was approved in 1983, and Cisplatin was approved in 1978. The oldest drug they wanted to give Kelsey was Mitotane, a derivative of the insecticide “DDT”, approved in July of 1970. (You can view a list of other off-patent oncology drugs here).

Steven Hill: “I realized, this isn’t the cutting edge of technology, they are giving us the same old stuff.”

Sarah Hill: “They told us admittedly—this is the most toxic regimen that we have. We have a six-month old with one kidney, and the side effects were kidney failure, leukemia—other kinds of cancers. I thought, even if she is going to pass away, I can’t do this to her.”