New clinical trial gives the Walawski family fresh hope for a blood cancer-free future

18 Mar 2023

Shortly after a shock blood cancer diagnosis rocked his family, 11-year-old James Walawski decided to make a ‘bald’ sacrifice to support the organisation that helped give his dad a new lease on life.

A rare blood cancer diagnosis was definitely not what the Walawski family was expecting to hear around Christmas last year.

Ben Walawski was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia called T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL). This form of blood cancer is extremely rare and typically aggressive, and is characterised by the out-of-control growth of mature T-cells (T-lymphocytes).

It does not have a lot of treatment options,” says his son, James.

What the family was told next was unimaginable, and demonstrates just how quick blood cancer can infiltrate a family and tear it apart.

“The initial treatment they tried didn’t work, and my dad got very sick. We were told at the beginning of February that he would likely pass away quite soon,” says James.

Ben with his two sons James and Andrew.

Ben had a blood test after his diagnosis as part of a new clinical trial research program called the Blood Cancer Genomics Trial (MoST-LLy), which is co-funded by the Leukaemia Foundation.

The trial leverages the science powering the Molecular Screening and Therapeutics Program (MoST) – a clinical trial which until now focused only on treating solid tumours.

It now focuses on high-grade lymphomas and acute leukaemias that are more aggressive and have few treatment options available.

Both fortunately and unfortunately, Ben fell into this category and was eligible for the trial.

In early February, when Ben took a turn for the worse, his blood test results opened up a new treatment opportunity for him.

“He had a blood test when he was first diagnosed as part of the MoST trial that was funded by the Leukaemia Foundation,” James recalls. “Days after he became really sick, the results from this blood test came back and showed that his cancer cells mutated, which opened up a new treatment for him.”

When Ben started the MoST treatment earlier this year, it drastically improved his condition and gave  his family renewed hope.

To give back to the Leukaemia Foundation, James made the incredible decision to sacrifice his hair to raise further awareness of the disease that his dad was diagnosed with.

"I have seen boys at my school take part in World’s Greatest Shave in the past, so I knew a little bit about it,” James says.

This week – in front of his fellow peers at Perth’s Scotch College –  James braved the shave in support of his dad and every other family like his who have had their lives turned upside by a shock blood cancer diagnosis.

Ben’s ’chinspirational’ transformation as part of the Leukaemia Foundation’s World’s Greatest Shave.

You can join incredible Australians like James and sign up to World’s Greatest Shave to shave, cut or colour your hair in support of the 135,000 families currently facing blood cancer.

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18 Mar 2023
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