Local 10-year-old boy playing pioneering role in fight against cancer

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ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) -- Kristie Williams stood in the parking lot of Lindsay Lane Baptist Church, Friday. She and members of the non-profit "Team Victory 4 All" worked out the last minute logistics for the unofficial second annual "Eli's Block Party."

Eli is Kristie's 10-year-old, car-loving son and he is fighting brain cancer.

"He is a Mustang man," said Kristie.

The impromptu car show was first held in January of 2014, after friends and family learned that Eli's cancer had returned. They decided to make it an annual event to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer.

"We wanted to do something that gave back to the community because we have so much support here locally and so we wanted to create an event that our friends could come enjoy, but yet was throwback to him, too," said Kristie.

Eli will not be able to attend Saturday's event, though. He is in Houston at MD Anderson Cancer Center as the first-ever patient for the NOAH Protocol, an experimental treatment that uses the immune system to fight cancer.

"We're out of options, really," said Kristie. "He's done almost every chemo that you can do for medulloblastoma, which is brain cancer. This is the first time any human in the world has received natural killer cells into their central nervous system."

Doctors first diagnosed Eli in 2011. He then underwent nine months of treatment at St. Jude's in Memphis and then returned home.

Eli relapsed in late 2013 and started chemo again to help manage the disease until a better treatment became available. After a year on that plan, his cancer started to grow again in February 2014, spreading to his spine, so his family turned to phase one of MD Anderson's immunotherapy trial.

"I didn't want to pioneer anything. I only wanted to do what works. Well, we're just not there and so we kind of only have the choice to pioneer."

Eli had surgery Monday to insert a reservoir in his brain.

"That's to receive the injections," said Kristie. "What they're going to be doing, they harvested his natural killer cells, your own immune system makes specific white blood cells that kill things, kill germs and cancer. They've harvested those of his and they're going to up the number of those in the lab. They're going to kind of beef them up and then they're going to inject them back into his system."

Doctors will check the progression of his cancer next Friday and if all goes well, they will inject the natural killer cells into his brain on April 27. He will then get injections three times a week for three weeks, followed by a week off for the next two months.

So, Sunday, once Eli's Block Party is over, Kristie will head back to Houston, where she will stay with her son for the next few months. The trial is the hospital's baby, but the patient is hers.

"They're trying to see if it's safe, you know, we're hoping the byproduct of that is that it cures him."

To follow Kristie's blog about Eli, click here.

To help the Williams family, click here.

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