SEVERE WX : Flood Watch - Flash Flood Watch View Alerts

New Cancer Treatment Uses Patients' Altered Cells To Fight Disease

A revolutionary, one-time treatment is giving new hope to cancer patients by treating them with their own immune cell...

Posted: May 11, 2018 11:12 PM
Updated: May 11, 2018 11:12 PM

A revolutionary, one-time treatment is giving new hope to cancer patients by treating them with their own immune cells that have been altered in a lab to become cancer killers.

The new treatment, known as CAR (Chimeric Antigen Receptor) T, is a type of immunotherapy that is showing surprising success in at least one Bay Area patient who has battled cancer for more than 20 years.

Jackie Pichon was first diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma when she was 37. "I've lost my hair so many times it's hard to remember," Pichon said.

The 61-year-old Concord resident does remember when her cancer turned more aggressive – into large B-cell lymphoma – and her doctors ran out of options. They sent her to a specialist at University of California, San Francisco, but chemotherapy there didn't work.

"So when CAR T came into the picture with Dr. Andreadis, he said, 'We're going to try this next and we're going to keep our fingers crossed,'" said Pichon. "And God willing, it worked."

CAR T is a new treatment where some of the patient's own immune cells, called T-cells, are removed and reprogrammed by scientists in a lab to fight cancer. Those cells are then put back into the patient.

"This technology actually rewrites the cell's genetic code, the T-cell code, so it actually can recognize and kill a lymphoma cell," said UCSF Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine Dr. Babis Andreadis. "It's almost like a sci-fi work of fiction to try and make these cells, and it's completely out of the realm of every other therapy we've ever done, not only for cancer, but for any other medical ailment."

Andreadis calls it computer science on the body. Pichon is one of 10 patients in experimental CAR-T trials at UCSF, one of the nation's top medical centers that offers it.

One month after Jackie's cells were infused back into her body, a large tumor on her face disappeared. Then the first scan proved it. "It was completely clean, everything had gone, that was a special moment for me, that was a rare moment," said Dr. Andreadis.

Pichon dealt with side effects, including very severe chills and a week-long fever.

"There's been a scan just about every 3 to 6 months and it shows that they were gone," said Pichon. "So it's very exciting, to be lymphoma-free after 20 years; it's extremely exciting."

More than a year and a half later – she remains cancer free.

"That truly was a medical miracle," said Andreadis.

Nationwide, nearly 300 patients are participating in CAR T trials. It is considered a high-risk treatment, in part because the side effects can be severe and in rare cases cause death. Last fall, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first CAR T therapy for lymphoma patients.

Pichon says she was given 20 years to live when she was 39. She is 61 today and believes CAR T saved her life.

"I think it's a miracle, it's a medical miracle absolutely," said Pichon. "They've been working towards this and I understand it's working with children already, and if it can work with other cancers, I think this is – this could be it."

The CAR T product alone costs more than $370,000 – though insurance does cover it.

Huntsville
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 67° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 61°
Florence
Overcast
62° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 62°
Fayetteville
Clear
61° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 61°
Decatur
Overcast
60° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 60°
Scottsboro
Overcast
61° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 61°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 132452

Reported Deaths: 2335
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19306349
Mobile13233291
Montgomery8748177
Madison770978
Tuscaloosa7418116
Lee579261
Shelby578750
Baldwin514149
Marshall389244
Etowah340247
Calhoun340140
Morgan323926
Houston276423
Elmore259647
DeKalb237519
St. Clair226337
Walker225383
Talladega210628
Limestone203319
Cullman186818
Dallas175926
Franklin175229
Russell17322
Autauga171525
Lauderdale167333
Colbert162926
Blount158015
Escambia157725
Jackson154011
Chilton152431
Dale134644
Covington133427
Coffee12988
Pike11799
Chambers114442
Tallapoosa113885
Clarke107017
Marion95429
Butler91139
Barbour8517
Winston71812
Marengo70519
Lowndes65227
Pickens64514
Bibb63810
Randolph62713
Hale61928
Lawrence60522
Bullock59714
Geneva5864
Cherokee58315
Monroe5808
Clay5547
Washington55113
Perry5396
Conecuh53011
Wilcox53011
Crenshaw52732
Henry4835
Macon47920
Fayette4358
Sumter43219
Lamar3572
Choctaw34412
Cleburne3356
Greene30315
Coosa1673
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 186798

Reported Deaths: 2277
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby30397449
Davidson26194297
Hamilton926392
Knox911575
Rutherford911388
Williamson513936
Sumner475093
Wilson341243
Putnam317038
Montgomery301543
Out of TN296825
Unassigned29046
Bradley288317
Madison278060
Sevier255315
Blount246123
Maury228923
Washington223234
Robertson218835
Sullivan209332
Hamblen187325
Tipton176617
Trousdale16517
Gibson158620
Hardeman154625
Wayne14896
Bedford131717
Dyer131413
Dickson123014
Cumberland116918
Fayette116718
Coffee115612
Anderson115311
Henderson115121
Weakley114519
Carter114128
Loudon11316
Greene111839
Obion11129
McMinn109424
Jefferson108514
Macon103320
Warren10197
Monroe101017
Lawrence100311
Hardin99115
Lauderdale94915
Franklin9458
Haywood93316
Lake9192
Roane8643
Carroll84918
Bledsoe8484
McNairy82418
White8069
Cheatham80510
Rhea79111
Hawkins78016
Cocke7379
Marshall7335
Overton7085
Smith69710
Johnson6622
Henry6129
Chester60510
Lincoln5961
Giles57617
Hickman5535
DeKalb55013
Crockett52919
Marion5167
Decatur4956
Fentress4623
Claiborne4384
Campbell4243
Polk38010
Grainger3603
Union3451
Benton3349
Jackson3145
Morgan3103
Cannon2810
Unicoi2811
Grundy2635
Humphreys2433
Sequatchie2262
Meigs2213
Clay2155
Scott2082
Houston1981
Stewart1822
Lewis1791
Moore1611
Van Buren1590
Perry1490
Hancock1073
Pickett1072

Community Events