In 2006, I was 46 years old and the president of a financial software company when out of left field, I was diagnosed with stage 4 incurable follicular non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
At the time, there was just one approved cancer treatment, R-CHOP, which is a combination of a monoclonal antibody with chemotherapy agents. Unfortunately, my remission was short lived and I relapsed at my three-month post-treatment scan. I sought out my first clinical trial at that point, an HDAC inhibitor called Vorinostat.
Between 2006 through 2018, I was in continual treatment. Fortunately I lived in Los Angeles, which offered me numerous large cancer research facilities. By July 2018, I had exhausted all of my treatment options. I was running out of time. I managed to get into a phase 2 clinical trial of CAR T cell therapy (Yescarta) at UCLA. I was the first patient at UCLA to enroll in the trail.
CAR T was my seventh therapy in 12 years (my other therapies were R-CHOP, Vorinostat in phase 2 trial, R-Bendamustine; Bexxar RIT, Cal101 (Zydelig/Idelalisib) phase 1 trial; and obinutuzumab).
Prior to my CAR T cell therapy, I had very bulky tumors which we had unsuccessfully attempted to debulk. My oncologist at UCLA, Dr. Sven de Vos, estimated I had over 8 pounds of tumor burden when I checked in for treatment. Likely as a result of my tumor burden, I experienced grade 4 cytokine release syndrome in addition to neurotoxicity which resulted in my being placed in a medically induced coma. But UCLA took great care of me and I survived.
On day 30 scans showed that my lymphoma was finally in complete remission. I am now three years, cancer free.