Family rallies support for Gordon Head youngster battling with rare form of cancer

Crowdfunding campaign has raised more than $59,000

Tiernan Dowling has been diagnosed with NUT midline carcinoma

The parents of an eight-year-old Gordon Head boy who’s been diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer have raised their crowdfunding goal to help afford special treatment.

The Dowlings have increased the goal on their GoFundMe page from $50,000 to $75,000, following their son Tiernan’s diagnosis of NUT midline carcinoma, a form of cancer characterized by a chromosomal rearrangement in the nuclear protein in testis gene. Tiernan is only the second case of the rare cancer in Canada, according to his mom Michelle Dowling.

“It’s a genetically defined cancer, it’s very aggressive,” she said. “We’re not giving up. We’re going to be doing a lot of expensive treatment and participating in some clinical trials.”

NUT midline carcinoma is a relatively new form of cancer, with the first documented case in the U.S. only dating back to 1999. Because of this and the differential nature of the cancer from patient to patient, researchers are still experimenting with ways to treat the disease.

Dowling said they are in contact with a doctor in Boston who specializes in research and treatment of NUT midline carcinoma, and that one of the clinical trials – known as personalized onco-genomics – is being conducted by the B.C. Cancer Agency.

“Right now, it’s kind of a guessing game,” she said of Tiernan’s condition. “They’re going to look at the genomes and understand the genetic makeup of the tumour, with the goal to pinpoint potential drug therapy for his particular cancer.”

While the diagnosis has been hard on Tiernan and his family, Dowling said community support is still rolling in. To date, the crowdfunding campaign has raised more than $59,000.

“It’s been overwhelming – people just care about him so much,” said Dowling. “His teacher from Victoria has come by, his friends have been by to visit, we’ve done a few FaceTime calls with them.”

Tiernan’s parents are taking a year off from work to be with Tiernan, who was expected to move to Canuck Place this week. They’ve increased their fundraising goal to help pay for his treatment and provide Tiernan with some positive experiences and memories.

“We’re just looking to fulfill all of the things that he wants to do,” said Dowling. “He’s definitely expressed some things that he’d like to do. He would like to visit a whole bunch of arcades, and if he’s able to, we are hoping to go to Disney World.

“He loves water parks, so there’s a couple in Florida near Disney World, and the one in West Edmonton Mall. He just wants to have fun.”

To donate, go to and search for Saving Tiernan.



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