63-year-old Steve Fulkert from Southern Delaware County was diagnosed with Lymphoma in 2009. At the time, the disease was at its first stage, and manageable. But as the years progressed, Steve started to experience other symptoms that were difficult to cope with.
In 2015, he realized that his cancer is no longer manageable and his throat became very sore. He also experienced excessive cough and fatigue.
Not long after that, Steve's oncologist diagnosed that his Lymphoma had grown into a rare cancerous disease called Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma, shortly known as DLBCL.
To begin with, Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system of the body. This type of cancer mainly grows in the neck, spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow, and thymus. But Diffuse Large B-cell Lymphoma is when enlarged swollen lumps grow into the lymph nodes causing excessive pain and sometimes, bleeding.
After diagnosis, Steve Fulkert went for chemotherapy. He was referred to the OSUCCC- James Cancer Hospital for a second opinion by his oncologist.
The OSUCCC-James Blood and Bone Marrow Transplant Program wanted him to postpone trying a stem cell transplant, and if chemotherapy didn't work, the new CAR-T immunotherapy therapy might be an option for Steve.
After five months of chemotherapy, Steve's cancer had not improved, leaving him with the final alternative: a CAR-T therapy clinical trial.
CAR-T Immunotherapy Clinical Trial
CAR-T Therapy is based on re-structuring the disease-fighting white T-cells in the patient's body so that they will recognize DLBCL cells. The "re-educated" T-cells are then returned to the patient's body where these 'super T-cells' can attack the cancer directly.
According to Samantha Jaglowski, MD at the OSUCCC-James, CAR-T therapy is much better than chemotherapy as it does no additional damage to the patient's body. Instead, this therapy focuses on regrowing disease-fighting cells in the body in place of destroying the abnormal cells.
On 13 October 2016, Steve received his first CAR-T treatment at the OSUCCC-James. According to Steve, he could feel the therapy attacking his cancer within minutes of receiving his injection, "It was like a war zone in my throat."
Within a month, Steve's pain was gone. Not only this but Steve also said that the CAR-T's trial had very few side effects compared to the grueling regimen of chemotherapy and its side effects.
After 90 days of CAR-T Treatment, Steven now has no sign of the disease. He is recovering well and is on his way to building a cancer-free lifestyle and is focusing on his mental and physical health. He is thankful for medical advancements and his clinical trial that saved his life.
The OSUCCC-James anticipates that their CAR-T therapy for lymphoma and leukemia will soon receive approval from the FDA.