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Man describes new FDA-approved gene therapy for leukemia that changed his life

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Lucas Novick, 27, has been in a battle with leukemia since his freshman year of college.

"I was having headaches that were so bad that they were causing vomiting pretty regularly and I couldn`t see straight well enough that I felt safe driving myself to school," Novick said.

Since 2009, Novick has endured a number of treatments including chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. The treatments have taken a physical and mental toll on Novick's body.

"The transplant that was supposed to save my life also nearly took it from me," Novick said. "The damage chemotherapy did to my body when I was first treated in 2009 and 2010 was such that I was walking with a cane after my 21st birthday. It did so much damage to my hip joints that they were replaced in 2011."

But after Novick's leukemia returned for a second time, he went to Children's Mercy Hospital where doctors were performing an experimental treatment.

"The approval of the CTL019 product for pediatric patients with relapsed refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia is really exciting for us," Doctor Doug Myers, of Children's Mercy Hospital, said. "We`ve spent a lot of time working on ways to get the immune system into the fight against cancer because we think it can decrease toxicity, decrease the amount of chemotherapy and radiation that we use for these cancers.​"

Dr. Myers said the treatment helped Novick, a musician, back onto the stage and has held his leukemia away for two years.

"Those are really special rewards for us in this field that have seen so many failures of this type of therapy in the past. To see this go forward, move forward, do well enough for a pharmaceutical company will pick this up and take it the rest of the way, that`s a really special time for us," Dr. Myers said.

While doctors believe it's too early to call the new treatment a cure, many agree this is the first step to a new generation of cancer treatment.

"I know at the end of the day that this is the future of medicine," Novick said.