Trip to Penn went as expected. No surprises … I still have Cancer. We met with Dr. G and started the pre-testing proceed for the CART-19 trial. More on that later as I am sure everyone is on pins and needles waiting to hear about the femur.
Dr. G is uploading my scans and will have the Orthopedic Oncologist look at them tonight for a second opinion. Even if she determines that surgery with the rod inserted is necessary, it won’t slow us down and we are still on track for this transplant.
If I need surgery it would be sooner rather than later so we don’t interrupt the T-Cell harvest scheduled for 12/8.
The CART-19 trial is a very interesting take on the stem cell transplant. Here is how it works: it is the same process as my first stem cell transplant that I had last January. I am given high dose Chemo (Melphalan) to wipe out my entire cell structure and immunity. The next day I am given back my own stem cells, which are being stored at Hackensack University Medical Center. The difference in this trial is that they are now going to harvest my T Cells as well (on 12/8)
T Cells are simply white blood cells called lymphocytes. Their main function is to fight infection in our bodies. They act to identify and attack and destroy infectious agents. My T Cells don’t work really well (or at all) against Myeloma.
When they harvest my T Cells on 12/8, they will bring them to the lab where they will genetically engineer them them to attack and destroy any cell which carries a particular protein (Myeloma) on its surface. The protein my T Cells are looking for is CD-19.
I am very hopeful and excited about this process. They are having great success with Leukemia patients. As of 10/16/14, 23 of the 30 patients in the Leukemia trial were still alive and 19 of them achieved and are still in a complete remission.
I would be the 5th Myeloma patient to enter. I spoke on the phone with the first one and she is four and one half months in complete remission with no maintenance drugs at all. I was connected to her through Kathy Giusti, the founder of the MMRF, so your generous support of that organization through the #bradstrong Golfs Against Cancer section of the blog or through my nephew Eli’s Bradstrong Chargers events is really working!
Here is a diagram of how this all works for those (like me) into pictures over words:
My dad’s favorite step is step seven. Where the T Cells “ATTACH to them (cells displaying the target protein) and KILL them.”
OK, OK … what about the rod? It’s all about the rod, bout the rod, no trouble. All about the rod, bout the rod … (bad pun alert)
No decision on surgery vs. radiation until probably Monday. Surgery seems likely but nothing definite until then I think. As soon as we hear from Dr. G at Penn we will update.