Therapy offers hope to patients with recurring blood cancers

Large B-cell lymphoma is a fast-growing and aggressive form of blood cancer and now a recently approved therapy is offering hope to patients whose cancer returns after standard treatment.

Leticia Lopez was a healthy woman with no medical issues until 2007.

“That’s when it started with this headache, journey whatever you want to call it,” she said.

Lopez was diagnosed with Large-B-Cell Lymphoma, the most common of the Non-Hodgkin’s form of blood cancers, and began standard of care treatment.

“About 60% of patients can be cured with that line of therapy however the problem is when the disease comes back,” said Dr. Jose Sandoval-Sus, a hematologist-oncologist with Memorial Healthcare’s Memorial Hospital West Cancer Center.

When that happened to Lopez, Sandoval-Sus gave her hope.

Through a partnership with the Moffitt Malignant Hematology and Cell Therapy Clinic, Lopez was qualified as a candidate for a therapy called CAR-T.

Special T-cells are removed, modified in a lab, then implanted back in the patient.

“And as the cells grow, they actually grow very fast inside of the body, and then they kill cancer. We can offer it to a larger group of patients that are actually in dire need sometimes of this treatment,” Sandoval-Sus said.

Lopez underwent the procedure in September 2021.

Follow-up scans have shown no signs of the disease, leaving her feeling almost like nothing ever happened.

“Ta-da! Great!,” she said with a laugh.

CAR-T therapy has also become a breakthrough for patients with relapsed leukemia and multiple myeloma.

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