Cover Story Sidebar: Our Cancer Reasearch is Curing Other Diseases Too
Valerie Matthews Mehl
Date: November 11, 2010
When Luis Diaz began his clinical studies of bacteria that eat away at the oxygen-starved core of tumors, he needed a way to track the bacteria in patients to make sure it was actually going where it was supposed to and attacking the cancer as it was designed.
Resident Chetan Bettegowada collaborated with cancer imaging expert Marty Pomper and cancer biology researcher Shibin Zhou to develop a marker that would track Diaz’s therapeutic bacteria, and as it would turn out, any bacteria. The marker is currently being used to help people with prosthetic joints experiencing pain pinpoint the source of the pain. The marker can tell physicians if the pain is the result of a bacterial infection.
Sickle Cell Anemia
In 1984, Kimmel Cancer Center researchers observed that a leukemia patient, who also happened to have sickle cell anemia, was cured of both diseases as a result of having a bone marrow transplant. Sickle cell anemia is a painful, blood-forming disease in which red cells are shaped like crescents instead of discs and clog up blood vessels. Until very recently, bone marrow donors had to be a “perfect” tissue match to the patient to avoid life-threatening immune complications. In African Americans, the group primarily affected by sickle cell anemia, patients who could not find a match within their immediate families were faced with discouraging odds. “The chance of finding an unrelated donor is less than 10 percent,” says leading bone marrow transplant expert Richard Jones.
That was until researchers Ephraim Fuchs and Leo Luznik developed haploidentical, or half-matched, transplants. In this case a parent, most brothers and sisters, and all children of the patient will be a half match. Since pioneering the therapy, the Kimmel Cancer Center has done more than 200 half-matched transplants, curing patients’ blood cancer, sickle cell anemia, and other diseases. Patients are treated with the immune-suppressing drug cyclophosphamide following the transplant to stave off complications resulting from a less than perfect tissue match. Blood stem cells are immune to the drug and repopulate the blood and immune system with healthy cells.
To date, seven patients have been treated for sickle cell anemia, and six remain disease-free, and none experienced immune complications.
Among the success stories is Pamela Newton. For more than 15 years she suffered with crippling pain. It was so severe she was hospitalized at least twice a month and relied on daily doses of pain killers for relief. Today, after a half-identical transplant, she is cured. Fifteen years ago, she had to drop out of college due to the debilitating illness. Today, she is pain free and enrolled in divinity school.
Articles in this Issue
Cover Story: Personalized Medicine is Here, The Time is Now
- Personalized Medicine is Here: The Time is Now
- Cover Story Sidebar: Our Cancer Reasearch is Curing Other Diseases Too
- Cover Story Sidebar: A New Paradigm for Cancer Drug Discovery
- Cover Story Sidebar: Personalized Approaches in Pediatric Cancer
- Cover Story Sidebar: The Frankenstein Project
- Cover Story Sidebar: The Serendipitous Discovery of a Cancer Starter
- Cover Story Sidebar: The Mathematics of Curing Cancer
- Immune Cell Commander
- A Personalized Genetic Profile for Brain Cancer
- A New "Twist" in Breast Cancer
- JHU Engineering Student Invents Melanoma Screening Device
- Special Delivery: Biodegradable Particles Transport Drugs to Diseased Tissues and Organs
- Targeting Brain Cancer Stem Cells
- Vaccine Clears Out Leukemia Cells
- Does Low Cholesterol Equal Lower Risk of High-Grade Prostate Cancer?
- A Common Good - The Commonwealth Foundation
- Helping Us Solve The Cancer Puzzle
- The Skip Viragh Center
- Making Waves to Fight Cancer
- Gift Brings Complementary Care to Cancer Patients
- A Major Gift for Kidney Cancer Research
- Giant Food Supports Childhood Cancer Research
- Wawa Cares About Cancer Patients
- Young Lacrosse Players Faced Off Against Childhood Cancer