Health Headlines: CAR T-cell therapy

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Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 7:14 AM CDT
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – More than 80,000 people will be told they have non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, or NHL, this year. It’s a cancer of the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell in our bodies. There are more than 60 types of NHL and it can be difficult to treat. But now, groundbreaking new treatment could change the game for cancer patients.

Brooke Michael, number 12, has been a catcher for as long as she can remember. Her mom and dad watched every battle on the field and were concerned when Brooke’s shoulder started hurting her.

“She called me one day when her and her sister were at pitching practice and she was in tears saying she couldn’t breathe,” Brooke’s mom, Stephanie Michael, painfully recalls.

Brooke was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma.

“She had a massive tumor on her chest. It literally was the size of a softball,” says Stephanie.

Six rounds of chemo and 29 rounds of proton radiation helped to shrink it, but the cancer was still there. That’s when doctors at Nemours decided to try a combination of gene therapy and immunotherapy called CAR T-cell therapy.

Nemours Children’s Health doctor, Michael Joyce, MD, PhD, explains, “For the children who are getting CAR T, it’s kind of the last curative therapy.”

T-cells, which are a type of immune cell in the body are taken from the patient’s blood. Using gene therapy, doctors reprogram the cells to attack cancer cells.

“Those cells go in the body and they proliferate and start to divide and attack any residual leukemia cells,” Dr. Joyce adds.

Studies show that up to 40 percent of the children who get it go into complete remission. It worked for Brooke and one year later, she’s back in the game, cancer-free.

“It’s just the best feeling being back on the field,” Brooke expresses.

Stephanie says, “We were days away from losing our daughter and now, we’re just back to watching her around the softball field.”

The new cancer-killing CAR T-cells stay in the body for months, maybe even years, to provide long-term protection. CAR T-cell therapy is not without risks. There’s a risk of infections, and it can cause fever, low blood pressure, and neurological problems. That’s why it’s typically reserved for patients who have not responded to other treatments or whose cancer has come back.

Contributors to this news report include: Marsha Lewis, Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer & Editor.