Xano was four when he started feeling unwell. His mum, Sonia, noticed he was dragging his feet on the way to the bus. High temperatures and loss of appetite followed and, finally, in pain, he had to be collected from school.

An MRI scan revealed a broken spine and, following bone marrow tests, on his fifth birthday, Xano was flown to Southampton and diagnosed with advanced neuroblastoma*, an aggressive form of childhood cancer. The news was devastating.

How do you stop a little boy from jumping around? He thinks he’s a super hero!

Sonia Basilio, mum to Xano

Typically, children with stage four neuroblastoma have a 40 per cent chance of survival. But Sonia and Xano’s dad, Ricky, were told about Southampton’s immunotherapy trials.

“We were told that chemotherapy only gets rid of what’s ‘visible’ but immunotherapy teaches the body to fight off any remaining cancer,” recalls Sonia. “It would reduce the chances of it coming back.”

Everything happened very quickly. Following initial chemotherapy, Xano returned to Southampton for an operation to remove a tumour on his kidney. There was the risk he would lose a kidney. Worse, one of his main heart arteries was wrapped around the tumour: he might not survive the operation. Thankfully he did and six and a half hours later he woke up with both kidneys, smiling!

After the  surgery, immunotherapy followed. Xano was put on the anti-GD2 trial**, a series of injections and infusions over a five-month period.


People don’t know about the amazing work that’s being done right here in Southampton; it’s amazing to be able to meet the people that are progressing these trials.

Ricky de Sousa, dad to Xano

Just days after the immunotherapy trial stopped, Xano felt better and even went swimming!

It has been nearly two and a half years since Xano finished his immunotherapy. We are delighted that Xano is now eight and enjoying life cancer-free.

Hear direct from mum, Sonia, in our inspiring video of Xano’s story:

* Neuroblastoma is a cancer that affects little children, mostly under the age of 5, and develops from particular types of immature nerve cells called neuroblasts. It often starts in the abdomen but can spread to other parts.

**Xano was a participant in the anti-GD2 trial run by the European SIOP Neuroblastoma Research Network. The trial is led in the UK by Southampton’s Dr Juliet Gray.

Find out more about neuroblastoma and how our research is helping more children like Xano – click here for our Q&A with Dr Juliet Gray.


I can honestly say I feel immunotherapy is a breakthrough. It’s so good to be able to live a normal life again. If it hadn’t been for immunotherapy I really think Xano wouldn’t be here.

Sonia Basilio, mum to Xano