Military veteran shares success story; Innovative clinical trial to treat advanced B-cell blood cancer

By  | 

(WZAW) -- Bobby Hagy served in the United States Army for 33 years, 19 of which were in a special operations unit. In the role of soldier, he felt confident and assured. But cancer attacked at the age of 47, as he approached the end of his prominent military career.

Bobby thought something might be wrong when he had difficulty swallowing for several weeks, and nothing helped make the pain go away. Bobby’s doctor discovered a tumor on the base of his tongue and diagnosed him with a type of advanced B-cell blood cancer. At that point, he wasn’t sure what his outcome would be.

After going through his first round of treatment, Bobby went into remission. A year and a half later, Bobby’s cancer returned. He was treated again, and less than a year after that, his cancer relapsed yet again.

Bobby felt like he was losing ground and needed more options. His physician then introduced him to CAR-T cell therapy, which reprograms a patient’s own T cells into CAR-T cells, enhancing their ability to detect and destroy cancer cells. Bobby understood what CAR-T cell therapy was supposed to do. In military terms, Special Forces were ordered to engage the enemy; they went in for the capture, and then T cells stood guard.

Bobby is still in remission, thanks to his participation in a clinical trial for this innovative therapy, and he spends much of his free time training dogs.

Now, Bobby is able to spend time with his family and old army friends. He’s sharing his powerful story via My-T Heroes: The Story of CAR-T, an initiative created by Novartis to educate about this innovative type of therapy and inspire others to be hopeful about the future of cancer treatment.

The initiative uses short films to demonstrate each patient’s creative vision of how CAR-T cell therapy worked inside their body, illustrating their experience with, and the impact of, CAR-T cell therapy on their life. By sharing individual experiences with CAR-T cell therapies, the goal is to educate about this innovative type of immunotherapy and, simultaneously, we hope these stories inspire others to be hopeful about the future of cancer treatment.

More about CAR-T cell therapy:
CAR-T cell therapies are approved by the FDA for use in certain kinds of advanced B-cell blood cancer and are being tested in clinical trials for these and other select cancers. They offer an individualized approach to treating certain types of advanced B-cell blood cancer. This innovative type of cell and gene therapy harnesses the power of a patient’s own immune system. T cells, part of the immune system that help defend the body, are extracted from the patient and reprogrammed to look for certain antigens, which are markers that help the immune system identify normal cells from infected or cancerous cells. The reprogrammed cells are then put back into a patient’s bloodstream to detect and destroy cancerous (and healthy) B cells.

Patients should talk to their care team to determine if they are eligible for a CAR-T cell therapy. As with all medical treatment, individual results may vary; not all patients will respond to treatment with CAR-T cell therapy. Individuals should work with their care team to monitor their status after any cancer therapy or treatment, as some who respond initially may relapse over time. CAR-T cell therapy is not available for all cancer types. CAR-T cell therapy can cause serious and life-threatening side effects such as cytokine release syndrome and neurological toxicities. Some common symptoms of CRS include fever, chills, nausea, and low blood pressure. Some common symptoms of neurotoxicity include delirium, confusion, headache, and agitation.