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. CAR T-cell
Brooke Michael — number 12 — has been a catcher for as long as she can remember. Her mom and dad have 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,” Stephanie tells Ivanhoe.
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.
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TOPIC: CAR T-CELL TREATMENT: GIVING BROOKE A SMARTER IMMUNE SYSTEM
REPORT: MB #5197
BACKGROUND: A type of cancer that forms in B cells, B-cell lymphomas may be either indolent (slow-growing) or aggressive (fast-growing) and most B-cell lymphomas are non-Hodgkin lymphomas. There are several different types of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphomas, including Burkitt lymphoma, chronic lymphocytic leukemia/small lymphocytic lymphoma (CLL/SLL), diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, follicular lymphoma, and mantle cell lymphoma. Prognosis and treatment depend on the stage and type of the cancer. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates about 80,550 people (44,880 males and 35,670 females) will be diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2023 and about 20,180 people will die from this cancer (11,780 males and 8,400 females).
DIAGNOSING: The symptoms of B-cell lymphoma can depend on what part of the body is affected by the disease, how far it has spread at the time of diagnosis and how fast it is growing. Symptoms may include painless swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit or groin, a swollen abdomen due to a mass or an enlarged liver or spleen, fatigue, cough or difficulty breathing, weight loss, and/or fever. The first step in diagnosing B-cell lymphoma is to have a physical exam and blood work followed by imaging tests such as a chest X-ray, a CT scan, or a PET scan.
NEW TECHNOLOGY: CAR T-cell therapy is a promising treatment for some patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma who have not responded to other therapies or have relapsed. CAR T-cell therapy is a highly-specialized therapy that involves genetically modifying a patient’s own T cells to attack their cancer. Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center is one of the first centers to make the FDA-approved CAR T-cell therapies available as a standard of care to patients who have not had effective treatment options in the past.
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