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New treatment offers hope for cancer patients
A new treatment is providing hope to many cancer patients who have run out of options. It's giving patients a real chance at living cancer-free. Elizabeth Cohen has this amazing story about a boy's fight against leukemia.
"So what's left for us to do as far as your learner's permit?"
A year ago John Wilkins wasn't sure if he would get to teach his son to drive a real car.
"I really want to learn."
Nick, who's 15, has had leukemia since he was four years old. He tried chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant from his sister. Both failed.
"There was a moment there where I thought that was it. He probably wouldn't live much longer."
Nick's last hope was an experimental treatment, a clinical trial, at the University of Pennsylvania.
Cohen: "You had a conversation with your son, I guess, shortly before his treatment."
John: "Yes. I guess with Nicholas. One day we were in his room and I just wanted him to understand where we're at. That this was probably the last treatment. That he could have to rid him of this leukemia."
Cohen: "Were you in effect telling him that if this treatment didn't work -"
John: "He could die."
Cohen: "How did he take that news?"
John: "He's very stoic. He understood."
In the treatment, Nick's doctors tweaked his immune system to make his own body rid itself of cancer. It's a groundbreaking approach that's captured the attention of cancer doctors, but there were no promises that this clinical trial would work.
John: "When they start talking about doing clinical trials as the alternative that's when you're really throwing hail Marys."
Cohen: "How did it feel as a mom to know that this is it?"
Lisa: "Just uncertainty. A lot of uncertainty. Just not knowing what was going to happen. It was hard."
Nick received the personalized cell therapy in May. For a month, John and Lisa watched over their son.
Cohen: "Do you remember that moment when they said hey this appears to be working?"
Lisa: "They came back and said we don't see any Leukemia cells. And so that was the point of you know I think this is working. I think that we're definitely headed down the right path."
Exactly how the treatment works is complicated, but nick's pretty good at explaining it, actually.
Nick: "They took out 't' cells out of my body. And then they engineered them to kinda track down the cancer cells and kill them off."
Cohen: "Did they get them"
Nick: "I hope so. I'm feeling good now. So I think they did pretty well."
Watch as this gray cancer-killing cell on the left attacks the green cancer cell, which gets smaller and eventually dies. Doctors tried this in 59 patients 25 are now cancer free.
"Our hopes are that eventually he will be cured. That he can kind of put aside this and just start moving forward."
"I just want him to be able to enjoy a normal kid's life."
"His biggest thing right now is he is looking forward to getting his learner's permit."
And soon, instead of toy cars John will get the chance to teach his son how to drive a real one.
Cohen: "You went from having cancer to now they can't even find it. How does that feel."
Nick: "Really great!"