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A new kind of cancer treatment in Washington state appears to be remarkably effective in treating leukemia. Lynsie Conradi’s case is especially poignant: The 23-year-old is fighting leukemia for the third time, and last year she lost her husband, Rodney, to cancer. But the new treatment, which involved adding a man-made gene to isolated T-cells from Conradi’s blood, seems to have knocked the leukemia out in just seven days. After a bone marrow test showed no evidence of the disease, Conradi was able to check out of the hospital for a few days. “Don’t ever give up hope,” her mother says. “There’s some dark days, but … don’t give up five minutes before the miracle.”
23-year-old Lynsie Conradi of Bellingham got the news Tuesday, just seven days after undergoing the treatment.
The treatment, called cellular immunotherapy, involves drawing blood from the patient, reprogramming their infection-fighting T-cells to find and destroy cancer cells, and infusing the blood back into their body, Seattle Children’s announced Wednesday.
“This is really amazing. I mean this is the sort of result that we wait around all of our careers to see, to see this kind of dramatic response that we couldn’t have hoped for even five or ten years ago,” said Dr. Doug Hawkins, a cancer specialist at Seattle Children’s.
While the concepts of using the immune system to attract cancer have been around for many years, the development is considered groundbreaking, according to Hawkins.
“It shows as a proof of principle we can develop a very highly specific treatment that is for someone’s cancer that goes just to the cancer cells and spares some of the usual side effects we usually associate with cancer treatment,” Hawkins said.
The current study is focused solely on the vicious form of cancer known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. But researchers at Seattle Children’s are hopeful they can ultimately use the revolutionary treatment for other types of cancers as well.
The next step for Lynsie is a stem cell transplant, with the aim of clearing the cancer from her body. The goal of the immunotherapy cancer trial was to get her to this stage.
“T-cell therapy will change the way we treat cancer,” said Lynsie’s mother Donna Rainford. “Watching Lyns suffer from the effects of chemo almost two weeks after it’s all done makes me thankful that it will soon be a thing of the past. Bring on those T-cells as part of the normal protocol for other cancer patients!”