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    New CAR-T Treatment Giving Hope To Some Cancer Patients

    PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Shari Kienzle was just back from vacation when she noticed something wasn’t right.

    “I just felt very tired, very weak. And my back was really hurting me,” she describes.

    She thought she had the flu, but it turned out to be a blood cancer called Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, where the cancer comes from white blood cells.

    “I started getting sicker and sicker, and more people were sending cards, and saying, ‘Oh, you’re going to beat this,’ and I was like, ‘Wow, this must be…’ it took a while to sink in that it was really bad or serious,” she recalls.

    She got the customary multi-drug chemotherapy treatment but the aggressive disease raged on.

    “My body was shutting down. I was very weak. Hard to get up and walk around,” she says.

    “Particularly those patients who don’t respond to therapy the cure rate becomes exceedingly small,” says UPMC cancer specialist Dr. Joseph Rossetti. “Cancer cells, unfortunately, do develop mechanisms by which they evade the immune system.”

    For these people, a new approach has come along, just FDA-approved about a year ago, called CAR-T.

    “He just said it’s really going to be a great option for us,” Shari says. “He didn’t say we’re running out of options, which we really were.”

    It stands for Chimeric Antigen Repector T cell therapy.

    First, blood is collected from the patient, and the T cells are extracted. These are sent to a lab and a special protein is added. The T cells come back and as a one-time intravenous infusion, they are given back to the patient, but these cells are now equipped to fight and kill the cancer.

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