Today’s post is a tribute to a courageous couple from the U.S. A man with Stage IV pancreatic cancer and a strong supportive wife who came with him to Munich for a different kind of treatment this time. Kevin had already been through multiple rounds of traditional chemotherapy and treatment at home since his diagnosis in December of 2014. He was not winning this fight, nor was he expected to. But this time around he didn’t want to do it that way again, and they ended up coming here to Dr. Kuebler. He was also sent to another hospital for additional treatments which would be more familiar to most of us, including the procedure of injecting chemotherapy directly into metastasized tumors in his liver. Kevin was here for three months.
They arrived in July of 2016, and had nearly completed treatment when I got here in September. Kevin and I were chatting during collection one day and he asked what my “numbers” were. Remember that Dr Kuebler likes to see tumor stem cell numbers to be lower than 1,000. I winced to tell Kevin that mine were over 6,000. He told me that his had been nearly twice that. He was due to be retested shortly, and his last return would be in a few weeks.
[“Return” refers to the IV reintroduction of our own natural killer cells being given back into our bloodstream. Our NK cells are reinfused after being proliferated and sensitized to our own tumor stem cells. So “return” refers to our personal army of microscopic soldiers coming back with reinforcements ready to take on the cancer in our bodies. Each collection results in a return three weeks later.]
Kevin had his apheresis retest the week of October 3, and he shared the results with the rest of us patients on Friday, Oct 7. We had as excited a celebration as we could have with needles in our arms! What a stunning result. The clinic was buzzing with it. Kevin let me take a picture of his before and after test results for comparison so that I could share it with you. From 11,000 down to 1,000 in three months.
Kevin’s last return was Monday, October 10. On Tuesday morning the couple would pick up his supply of personal vaccines to continue their treatment at home, and they would fly home Tuesday afternoon. He’ll be back for another analysis next year with the hope that he will not need an extended stay. As Mrs. Kuebler cautions, we are never finished keeping track of cancer.
The day that Kevin had his last return, I received my first return! Monday October 10 was three weeks from my first collection, so my first group of cells were ready to come back. I think of them as trained and fortified. What an uplifting feeling to be inviting back into my bloodstream my own personal immune cells, ready to start attacking my own cancer and turning the fight in my favor. I am told this will also improve my overall energy and strength.
The return does not require the apheresis machine where my residual plasma is sitting in the collection bag. After the collection is complete, which currently takes under 3 hours in my case, then the apheresis machine is disconnected and the same needle is used to receive the infusion from the return. First you give blood for a future return, then you receive the return from three weeks prior. It feels like saline going into the vein, there is no discomfort.
This is a picture of my own report of tumor cell numbers in my bloodstream as of September 19.
I am going to keep Kevin’s miraculous result in my heart along with other success stories ongoing at this clinic (and other clinics where cancer is treated rather than just managed). We all sent Kevin home with our love and best wishes. He is well prepared to enjoy his life for a long time to come. I hope to be able to show you a before and after comparison which makes me feel equally joyful about my own prospects for the future.