Child’s cancer treatment fight heads to trial in Wright County, Minnesota

The fight over a 5-year-old’s cancer treatment has gone to trial in Wright County.

Doctors are insisting on an extended regimen of medicines and chemotherapy to make sure a little boy’s leukemia never returns. But his parents argue the treatment is too invasive and too painful for their son and they want to try alternative therapies. 

Keaton Peck was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, an extreme, aggressive form of cancer attacking his white blood cells within the last six months. 
His doctor, Nathan Gossai of Children’s Minnesota, testified Monday that without immediate intervention, the boy would have died. That treatment regimen included chemo.

And while it was successful in beating back the cancer, Keaton’s mom and dad were sick about the side effects and impact on the boy’s weakened body.

"He has very serious and severe side effects," explained family attorney, Christina Zauhar. "And that is the majority of the parents concern, what are these lifelong side effects that Keaton is going to experience, including and up to potential fatality due to the chemo treatment itself?"

Dr. Gossai testified the nationally accepted treatment protocol for this form of leukemia includes up to a two-year commitment with high-level medical intervention and continued chemo so the cancer does not return. He reported the survival rate is 93.1 percent when the regimen is followed completely.

But Keaton’s parents and their attorney argue, given the success of the initial treatment and their naturalist beliefs, they would rather try alternative remedies going forward.

"Keaton does not have any detectable cancer at this point. He hasn't since the completion of his induction chemotherapy, which was in January of this year," Zauhar told FOX 9’s Paul Blume outside of the courthouse. "So he has had no detectable cancer for several months. At this point, the hospital's recommendation is to continue preventative treatment, which is causing the family very extreme fear and caution for their child's life."

Keaton’s parents, McKena Peck and Troy Verm have promised to keep up with cancer monitoring and are prepared to reevaluate should the leukemia return.

The state stepped in when they balked at continuing with chemotherapy, stripping them of their custody rights out of concern for the child’s well-being. 

That is the ultimate issue at stake in the scheduled two-day trial before Wright County Assistant Chief Judge Elizabeth Strand.