Barbara Lisser calls her husband, Abe, her “rock.” Abe is such a sturdy and reliable partner in her battle with ovarian cancer that she often uses the pronoun “we” to describe her experience. The 62-year-old receptionist also credits her co-workers at the hair salon where she works for being so understanding and supportive.
The worst part of her cancer treatment was right at the beginning, when she received surgery and chemotherapy. Since starting on immunotherapy, she says she’s had “not one bad day.”
Barbara was treated at the Abramson Cancer Center at University of Pennsylvania by George Coukos, M.D., Ph.D., and Janos Tanyi, M.D., Ph.D. As part of a clinical trial, Barbara received a two-step immunotherapy regimen. The first step consisted of a vaccine made from her own dendritic cells that were previously exposed to cancer cells from her tumor. These “smart” dendritic cells were then injected back into her lymph nodes where they help to stimulate her immune system to attack cancer cells in her body.
In the second part of the immunotherapy, doctors removed T cells from her blood, grew them in billions of copies in the lab, and then re-infused them back into her body. The idea is that this army of T cells will be effective at eliminating cancer because they have been “educated” by the dendritic cell vaccine to recognize her cancer cells. This combined approach is designed to prevent recurrence of her ovarian cancer. The Answer to Cancer (A2C) spoke with Barbara about her immunotherapy experience.