YOUNGSTOWN, OH — Denise and Jim Keenan of Youngstown recently celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary. This milestone taking on even greater meaning, with Denise diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma back in 2009.
“….so I started getting used to the idea of not being here anymore." Denise, 66, went in and out of remission several times over the past ten years, with a variety of failed cancer treatments.
Husband Jim says, "She's convinced me probably a hundred times over the years that she was a goner." Pet scans showing how cancer had spread throughout her lungs and chest. But in August of this year, a major breakthrough.
“My name is Denise and I'm the first CAR T-cell patient at Seidman Cancer Center at University Hospitals."
This University Hospitals commercial detailing her amazing journey. The clinical trial, called CAR T-cell Therapy, is delivered in a single syringe and re-engineers T-cells to seek out and destroy the cancer cells. UH is the first in the nation for this type of trial, engineering and processing cells in their own lab.
Hematology and oncology specialist, Doctor Paolo Caimi says, "We collect the patient's cells they get modified with a particular virus that introduces the genetic modification over twelve to 14 days." And just 30-days after starting the trial, Denise’s cancer is completely gone.
She adds, "The jury's still out as far as how long this is gonna last because they just don't have a lot of long term data."
But the wife, mother and sister says as of right now, she will live in the moment.
"The future is unknown so just enjoy the moment. I think you're a lot happier if you can do that."
Doctors say they still don't know exactly why some people respond better to CAR T-cells than others since the trial is still in the very early stages.
But they say the new treatment is very promising, especially for cancers of the blood and organs.