Your Strongest Weapon Against Cancer May Be In Your Own Blood
A T-cell is a type of white blood cell present in the human bloodstream. “T” stands for Thymus, the organ in which this type of white blood cell matures. These cells are important in maintaining the body’s immune system and are critical in the fight against harmful invading substances.
Cytotoxic T-cells work to destroy tumors or mutated cells, much like soldiers repelling an invader.
A race against time and the promise of non-toxic T-cell cancer treatments
As many people know, cancer can be relentless. For Abled.com Co-Founder Laura Meddens, this was the case with her Seeing Eye® guide dog Wagner. He had been battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma since 2010 and all of “Waggie’s” chemotherapy treatment options in the Netherlands had run their course. In early 2013, the tumors came back, . However, a new treatment option emerged in the United States.
Hope for dogs with cancer means hope for humans with cancer
Wagner was accepted into a clinical trial being run by the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences in College Station, Texas.
Waggie’s blood samples were sent over to Houston from Amsterdam, thanks to the help of many people in the Netherlands and the U.S., and you can read more about that global effort at our facebook page.
At the MD Anderson Cancer Center lab, Dr. Colleen O’Connor isolated a certain type of T cells from his blood and expanded them to number over three billion, ready to be re-infused back into his bloodstream to kill the cancer cells.
These are the T-cells that have been expanded from Wagner’s blood samples that were sent from Amsterdam to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
The cells were expanded (grown) to number over 3 billion and have been cryopreserved for re-infusion into Waggie’s bloodstream.
It is a non-toxic way of killing the cancer.
And what’s learned from Waggie’s treatment will be applied to develop similar treatments for people with various types of cancer.
“We developed this idea after observing clinical data that showed the faster the human T-cells recovered after chemotherapy, the better the patient’s prognosis,” says Colleen O’Connor, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow at MD Anderson’s Children’s Cancer Hospital (CCH) and an investigator on the trial. “Thus, we tried infusing large numbers of healthy T-cells back into the dog to help the immune system recover after chemotherapy.”
The trial, undertaken in collaboration with Heather Wilson-Robles, D.V.M., assistant professor at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is proving successful and yielding new insights into the disease. Two of the dogs treated with T-cell therapy have been in complete remission for two years post T-cell therapy, and most of the others have lived well past the 10-month period.
This T-cell therapy isn’t restricted to lymphoma, however. Because the composition of canine blood is very similar to human blood, especially in children, it is hoped the research gained will lead to new treatment protocols for humans. An experimental T-cell therapy in Philadelphia has already saved a 7 year-old girl from an aggressive form of leukemia; she’s been cancer-free for 8 months, and counting.
“The power of this study is that it can be used for all types of cancer,” says Laurence Cooper, M.D., Ph.D., professor and section chief of pediatric T-cell therapy at CCH and the study’s senior author. “In the near future, we’re interested in targeting other malignancies, such as brain tumors and bone cancers using this approach as a platform.”
Professor Laurence Cooper oversees the research, and speaks with Dr. O’Connor about the process in this video on their facebook page.
Help make cancer ‘history’: Support/Promote Laura & Wagner’s indiegogo.com campaign
The motto of the MD Anderson Cancer Center is: “Help make cancer ‘history’, as in, help to make it a thing of the past and put it behind us by supporting this pioneering research.
Thanks to the generous support of contributors to an indiegogo campaign, Laura was able to take Wagner to Texas for a month of T cell infusions to try to make his cancer ‘history’. As well as giving Wagner a fighting chance, donors contributed to a very important research trial that could produce a viable treatment protocol for children, teens and adults who are battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and other cancers. But because of unanticipated chemotherapy expenses and other costs, the campaign wasn’t enough to cover everything.
The T-Cells are working but Waggie’s faced the additional complication of being diagnosed with Erlichia (tick disease) contracted in Texas, and has also undergone several enzyme treatments upon his return to Amsterdam. So to try and make up the deficit and help cover the additional costs, a new campaign has been mounted at gofundme.com and we hope that you’ll support this ongoing treatment and research for a remarkable guide dog. Considering the costs of raising and training a guide-dog can average around $80,000, this investment in Waggie’s wellbeing and the benefit it can bring to human cancer patients is more than worth it.
Please click here to learn more and to make a contribution.
We also want to thank our friends at the Every Dog Has Its Day blog who sent us the following note:
“Here’s a link to Waggie’s Day at our blog “Every Dog Has Its Day’. (Judah met Wagner (Waggie) and his owners at a bakery in College Station. He’s visiting A&M from Amsterdam to receive a special treatment for his cancer. Waggie is a Seeing-Eye dog for his owner Laura and was the first guide-dog in the Caribbean! There’s much more to this moving story, which you can read about here. We at Every Dog hope Waggie is doing well and safe returns to Amsterdam!”