In 2006, Denise and Chris learned their two year old son, Cole, had acute lymphoblastic leukemia in bone marrow (ALL). Cole received standard-of-care chemotherapy at a hospital close to home in Florida, and continued chemo until he was five years old. Then, just five months away from being cancer-free for five years, Cole’s cancer relapsed in both his bone marrow and spinal fluid. He resumed chemotherapy, which cleared the ALL in his bone marrow, but not in his spinal fluid. Denise and Chris then brought Cole to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Boston Children’s Hospital for a second opinion, where Cole ultimately received a bone marrow transplant (BMT) from his brother in November 2014.
Three years after the BMT, Cole’s cancer reoccurred once again in his spinal fluid, and his care team at Boston Children’s Hospital indicated he was a perfect candidate for chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR T) therapy, which involves extracting a patient’s own immune cells, genetically altering them to target specific markers found on cancer cells, and then reinfusing them back into the patient so that the immune system is able to fight the cancer.
On June 6, 2018, Cole became one of the first pediatric patients at Boston Children’s Hospital to receive CAR T cell therapy. Cole experienced side effects, including cytokine release syndrome, which alarmed his parents. However, the major side effects subsided after three months, and Cole was able to return to his normal life.
Cole and his family are now celebrating his one-year anniversary post-immunotherapy. Cole is looking forward to turning 15 years old this fall, enjoying nature, traveling, and fishing with friends and family.