Could It be a Miracle Cure for Cancer?

Community Rallies Behind Their Friend

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    Micro biologist Ayesha Khan works on research in a lab at the County of San Diego Health and Human Services in San Diego, California April 26, 2009.
By Amanda Winkler, Christian Post Reporter
August 17, 2011|1:56 am

“You have cancer.”

There are 571, 950 Americans who are expected to hear these three life-changing words this year, according to the American Cancer Association.

That’s a little more than 1,500 people a day who will have to change their lives and come to terms with their own mortality.

Clyde Norris, 44, is one of those people.

Norris is the owner of the Main Street Fitness in downtown Spartanburg S.C. and his community is rallying behind him by strapping on yellow masks and heading into his hospital room to support him in this battle.

Once a body builder competitor and fitness trainer, Norris is now fighting a new enemy intent on destroying his white blood cells: acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

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It is the type of cancer that is characterized by the rapid growth of abnormal white blood cells that accumulate in the bone marrow. Eventually it ends up interfering with the production of normal blood cells.

Norris, however, is fortunate in that he has a whole community of supporters rallying behind him, praying for a full recovery. The treatment, however, can be the toughest part about having cancer.

According to GoUpState.com, Norris’ treatment is 28 days long and he has already started chemotherapy. He receives chemo for 24 hours a day for seven days.

The support from the community was so overwhelming that he had to be moved to a larger hospital room at Gibbs Cancer Center because of all his visitors, according to hospital workers.

GoUpState.com reports that the walls of his room are covered with cards and posters encouraging him along his path to recovery. One sign reads Kick Leu's Booty - Leu as in leukemia.

Most of his days are filled with nurses checking on him and giving him medication – he takes 25 a day.

On a good day, he is able to lift the dumb bells that are kept in his room and he always tries to stretch and walk around the hospital floors for exercise to keep in shape. His world has changed forever.

“He's a great guy. He doesn't just live in the community; he's actually part of the community,” Jon Jensen said, a longtime friend of Norris.

According to GoUpState.com, that’s the kind of reputation Norris has: someone who is caring and willing to bend over backwards to help someone in need.

Now that Norris is in need of support, the community is right there for him.

There is now some breaking news about his cancer treatment.

The Christian Post was told about a ground-breaking study that could help Norris and others suffering from the same disease.

Could this be a miracle cure for cancer?

Those diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia will be glad to know that there is a new gene therapy that could “wipe out leukemia.”

The study has been ongoing for about a year and the results are spreading through the medical community like wildfire. Experts say cancer patients and researchers have a newfound hope for the future because of the new gene therapy.

The study, led by Dr. Carl June who is a gene therapy expert at the University of Pennsylvania, is published in the New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine.

"It worked great. We were surprised it worked as well as it did," June said.

How does it work?

The treatment is simple. It involves turning the patients’ own blood cells into the "attacker cells" that destroy the growing cancer.

Recent studies show three men, also diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, who reacted poorly or negatively to all other treatments.

The patients volunteered to try the new gene therapy.

Blood was taken from the patients and the T-cells were removed and altered in a lab. Once altered to make them more effective in killing the cancer cells, the T-cells were infused back into the patient.

According to reports, the patients had a large number of cancer cells die simultaneously, causing them to feel extremely sick.

"It was like the worst flu of their life," June said. "But after that, it's over. They are well."

Two of the three patients’ cancer had completely gone into remission. The other’s cancer had been reduced dramatically, though not 100 per cent.

“It’s quite exciting,” said David Steemsma, a member of Leukemia Program at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and associate professor of medicine at Harvard University.

“Tumors trick the immune system into thinking that it belongs there. So, by changing the T-cells and directing them to fight the cancer cells, we are telling them not to be tricked anymore.”

While most doctors and researchers are excited about the findings, most admit that more research is needed.

“We're just a year out now. We need to find out how long these remissions last," said June. Also, the study was done on just three men so generalizing the treatment for the broader population may take more work.

Researchers said if the T-cells can be custom tailored to fight against specific leukemia, the results may be an overwhelming discovery for those in the cancer community.

One of the patients commented to the university about the new treatment. He called himself "very lucky.” He was successfully treated over the years with chemotherapy until it had run its course.

Now, nearly one year since he entered the study he says, "I'm healthy and still in remission. I know this may not be a permanent condition, but I decided to declare victory and assume that I had won."

“We're just a year out now. We need to find out how long these remissions last,” said June.

Meanwhile, the future looks bright for Norris due to the support of his community and the new gene therapy as a possible option for treatment.

“There's been an outpouring of support, and I've been very thankful for that," Norris said.

For abstract/research information about the new gene therapy entitled, "Chimeric Antigen Receptor–Modified T Cells in Chronic Lymphoid Leukemia" at
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1103849#t=articleTop.

Contact Researchers for new gene therapy: Address reprint requests to Dr. Porter at the Division of Hematology and Oncology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, 3400 Civic Center Blvd., PCAM 2 West Pavilion, Philadelphia, PA 19104, or at david.porter@uphs.upenn.edu.

 

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