An orange county woman was given another shot at life when she was cancer free thanks to a one-of-a-kind treatment developed by a Santa Monica company.
Back in 2015, Denise Delatorre was diagnosed with aggressive lymphoma. After chemotherapy seized to work, she was given only six months to live.
“That day I went home and told my son I was going to die. I actually pulled him out of work and told him that I wasn’t going to make it,” Delatorre recalled as tears welled up in her eyes.
But thankfully the Laguna beach mother had found out about a study at UCLA involving the use of a unique immunotherapy called CAR-T cell therapy. She became their first patient to be involved in the trial.
“Your body is a miraculous thing. It’s supposed to heal itself. Our immune systems are meant to heal disease,” Delatorre said.
This was exactly what biopharmaceutical company Kite Pharma hoped to do with their development of the its first-of-its-kind therapy, which uses a patient’s own cells to fight cancer.
T-cells are taken from the patients’ blood, later modified to fight and kill cancer cells and then re-injected into the patient’s body.
Timmerman, A UCLA oncologist and member of the Jonsson Comprehensive cancer centers tumor immunology program. His study involved five patients which included Delatorre.
“These are the patient’s own cells that have now been re-engineered to fight cancer in a way that the normal T-cells cannot do,” Timmerman explained. “These are patients that have failed all other therapies and have really had few options up until now.”
So far the results indicate a bright future as Kite pharma studied 101 patients all over the country.
After an average of roughly nine months, 82 percent saw their tumors shrink during the study while 39 percent, including Delatorre were in complete remission.
“I had no hope when I entered in clinical trials. So I feel extremely blessed,” Delatorre said.
When the study had first commensed she had more than 30 tumors, but after the treatment all of those tumors were gone.
There are risks with this one-of-a-kind program, some of the patients managed to develop a condition in their immune system that was over-reactive to the therapy. Which led to two fo the patients dying.
Since then however the doctors have adapted “There’s been a learning curve associated with using this therapy in myself and with other doctors around the country,” Timmerman said. “I think we know how to use this therapy much more safely now.”
Their hopeful that even if the cancer re-emerges in Delattore, her engineered cells will continue to fight.
“The T-cells should just pop back up and take care of that cancer, so I believe that is the true miracle of this,” Delatorre Said.
Now in remission for a couple months, Delatorre was finally feeling like she was herself again.
“I started buying more clothes, and I started a new job. I’m starting to live my life again,” she said happily.
Kite pharma hopes that the FDA will approve the CAR-T cell therapy by November.