Cancer

WATCH: Turning blood into living drugs to fight cancer

(MEREDITH Image)
(MEREDITH Image)
(AP Image)
(AP Image)
(AP Image)
(AP Image)

KAPAAU, Hawaii (MEREDITH/AP) — Immune therapy is the hottest trend in cancer care and the next frontier is creating “living drugs” from blood to destroy tumors. Cloud Bannick was losing his battle with leukemia.

“I tried all the therapies that were available, all the chemotherapies, all the radiation, I gone through all of the fall out of the disease.”

Bannick says he was ‘almost dead’ when he heard about an experimental treatment that could be the next frontier in immune therapy: custom-made “living drugs.” An earlier wave of immunotherapy drugs – the kind used to treat former President Jimmy Carter’s cancer – unmasks tumors so that “t cells,” a kind of immune cell, can strike.

Now doctors are reprogramming those t-cells to make them stronger and better at seeking out cancer. The process begins with removing t-cells from the patient’s blood. One of the ways researchers are altering them is a virus engineered to instruct the t-cells to grow a chimeric antigen receptor – or car.

After suffering from a stroke, Dyanna Hurley began to experience episodes of sudden, frequent and uncontrollable crying and laughing that did not match how she was feeling. Dyanna had already stopped working as a traditional nurse due to struggles with the right side of her body following the stroke, and because of the crying and laughing episodes, she began to notice changes in aspects of her personal life as well.

She began to enjoy her weekly dinners with her friend less because she felt like everyone was looking at her when she was having a PBA episode, and it made her feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. Though she did not know what was wrong, she knew something was going on and that she was not getting the answers she needed.

About a year after her stroke, Dyanna asked her primary care physician to send her to a neurologist, who diagnosed Dyanna with PseudoBulbar Affect (PBA), which can occur secondary to neurologic conditions such as stroke.

What is PBA?

PBA is a distinct condition that can happen to people after they suffer from a traumatic brain injury or neurologic condition such as stroke. It results in sudden, frequent and uncontrollable…