SHAWNEE, Kan. — A Johnson County, Kansas, mom is seven years cancer free. The therapy in the clinical trial she was part of is now FDA approved and helping blood cancer patients faster than before.
She said the treatment saved her life.
Three, five and seven — those were the ages of Emily Dumler’s kids when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood cancer, Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
“Every day’s a gift,” Dumler said.
In 2013, she spent 43 days in the hospital, while doctors scrambled to find out why she was experiencing so much bleeding. She was 32 years old.
“You never think life will be normal again, you know, I lost my hair five times. I lost 30 pounds,” Dumler said. “I missed Christmas with my families. I missed family vacations. You’re just on the sidelines and so sick.”
Dumler’s battle began with chemotherapy. The cancer came back.
Doctors at the University of Kansas Health System suggested a stem cell transplant.
“Unfortunately, relatively shortly after the stem cell transplant, this awful disease in Emily came roaring back,” Dr. Joseph McGuirk said. “Now, we were backed into a corner.”
After two years of fighting, Dumler was given six months to live.
“It’s absolutely devastating when you’re given a time limit, when you have to beat this cancer that you’ve already been unsuccessful beating twice,” Dumler said.
However, hope was on the horizon.
McGuirk and team pointed Dumler to an immunotherapy called CAR T-Cell. There was a clinical trial happening a week later in Houston.
Dumler was the third person in the world to complete the regimen — and it worked.
Within one month, she went into remission. Seven years later, she’s cancer free.
Since then, her kids have celebrated a lot of birthdays.
“They are now 11, 14 and 15,” Dumler said.
The good news keeps coming.
The therapy is FDA approved for second-line treatment, which eliminated one more obstacle standing between the patient and this treatment. People can bypass the intense stem cell transplant and go straight to this therapy, following chemo.
“That was my hope always, after I had that treatment,” Dumler said. “I just wish patients could get this as soon as possible because it is so life-changing.”
McGuirk said KU Health System had a hand in the randomized trials that led to FDA approval.
“It’s a complete game changer and it will save many, many thousands of lives,” McGuik said.
McGuirk said they’re getting ready to deploy another study to see if this treatment would be a good first-round option.
It could take a few years to see those results. But as Dumler would tell you, hope can carry a heavy load.
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