Teen Is Cured from Cancer after Groundbreaking Therapy: ‘It’s a Miracle I’m Alive’

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Teen Is Cured from Cancer after Groundbreaking Therapy: ‘It’s a Miracle I’m Alive’: In 2010, Emily Whitehead, then age 5, had her entire life ahead of her.

Her father Tom, 53, tells PEOPLE that his daughter enjoyed playing practical jokes on him and his family since she was a little child. She greatly improved our quality of life.

The boisterous preschooler had just completed her annual checkup in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania, reached every developmental milestone and received a clear medical report.

Her mother, 46-year-old Kari, recalls, “Everything was great.” A week later, though, she discovered Emily had bruises on unexpected regions of her body, such as her stomach and back. After that, her gums began to bleed, and she began to wake up in the middle of the night in excruciating pain.

The next morning, Kari was back at the doctor’s office with her young daughter because, according to her, when she Googled the symptoms, “these were the classic indicators of leukemia.”

After receiving an immediate diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Emily was given a 26-month chemotherapy regimen by medical professionals at Penn State Health in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

She developed unusual infections during the first few weeks of treatment, which nearly necessitated amputating both of her legs due to her extremely high fevers. She faced difficulties, but a month later, she was in remission.

We got off to a bad start, but the physicians assured us that chemotherapy works for these kids when it does.

Up until Emily relapsed in October 2011, at which point doctors gave the then 6-year-old only a 30% chance of surviving.

Tom, a lead lineman for a power business, says that the news was even more heartbreaking than Emily’s initial prognosis. Tom also took Emily to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for a second opinion (CHOP). I promised Emily that I would do whatever it took to find someone who could repair her, even if it meant crawling to the North Pole.

And that’s basically what he and Kari, the project coordinator for the research, did.

While Emily spent most of the following four months in the hospital getting ready for a bone marrow transplant in February 2012, her parents called specialists to learn about every treatment option.

“We urgently require your assistance, God, if you are up there. I was half asleep but not quite when I immediately recognized Emily at CHOP. And I could see that she was improving “In his book, Praying for Emily: The Faith, Science, and Miracles that Saved Our Daughter, Tom writes about the vivid visions he had of Emily’s recovery.

According to Emily, now 17 years old, “I know my parents tried to make me smile every day.” “I still remember that as being something incredibly wonderful.”

By February 29, her illness had gotten so bad that she was no longer a transplant candidate, leaving her family with no other choice.

However, as fate and science would have it, Tom and Kari learned from Emily’s doctors at CHOP that the FDA and other committees had finally approved the hospital’s Phase 1 clinical trial for CAR T-Cell therapy in children after a year of completing the necessary paperwork — and Emily had become the very first pediatric patient.

Despite the numerous hazards, according to Kari, “it wasn’t a hard decision for us at all.” Tom continues, “The other option was to stay at home with hospice and just watch her die.”

And amazingly, it was successful.

A bone marrow test revealed Emily’s cancer was completely eradicated on May 10, 2012, 23 days after she started the treatment.

After everything she had been through, “it was a tremendous shock,” recalls Kari, whose family is shown in the recent movie Of Medicine and Miracles, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Festival in June. We were simply overjoyed.

Dr. Stephan Grupp, who also appears in the video, is the director of the Susan S. and Stephen P. Kelly Center for Cancer Immunotherapy and Emily’s physician “She was not anticipated to survive, and then all of cancer vanished.

CAR T-cell treatment is the most potent and effective method “to get the body’s immune system to directly engage and kill cancer,” according to research “He adds.

T-Cells, a type of white blood cell essential in battling infections, are removed from the patient’s body and genetically modified in a lab over the course of three weeks to “train them how to attack cancer,” according to Grupp. They are then reintroduced into the patient’s bloodstream.

More than 15,000 patients with blood cancer have successfully undergone the procedure globally since Emily, the first child to get CAR T-cell therapy, was treated.

You could say that this is a completely new area of medicine, according to Grupp. Now, all we need to do is figure out the best cancer cure recipe.

Since then, Emily, who recently obtained her driver’s license and is submitting college applications, has not had cancer and was deemed healed when she turned 17 in May.

She founded the Emily Whitehead Foundation in 2015 with the help of her family in order to spread the word about cutting-edge pediatric cancer treatments and support other affected families.

I think it’s incredibly vital to raise awareness about therapies like CAR T cells, says Emily. “It’s a wonder I’m still here, and I’m really thankful for that.”