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Newer immunotherapy CAR T cell treatment helps man ease pain of cancer

Posted at 11:44 PM, Aug 08, 2018

OMAHA, Nebraska — After going through treatment after treatment for Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, Fred Peetsch of Lincoln, Nebraska was out of options when he came to Nebraska Medicine to try a new procedure. 

He beat it once, but five years later the disease came back. Peetsch underwent chemo and even a bone marrow transplant in Kansas, but doctors still told him treatment was failing. 

"I went in and ... didn't work. I still had the full cancer. It was still there, everything," Peetsch said.

So Peetsch went somewhere different to undergo a new procedure called CAR T-Cell therapy. 

Right before his procedure through the new place, Nebraska Medicine, his cancer flared up in his abdomen, putting him in extreme pain. But once the treatment began, that pain and his cancer began to vanish. 

Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-Cell Therapy uses the patient's immune system to target his own cancer cells.

"All the cancer cells that I had on me were on nerves, everything. So as soon as the pain was gone I knew it's working because I can feel the pain actually leaving my body," Peetsch said. 

His intuition was correct, just a few weeks ago he went in for another visit. 

"Dr. Vose told me it was in remission and I just started crying. Now they have to accept hugs from me; I normally don't go around hugging people but it means a lot,” Peetsch said. 

The CAR T procedure was just made available for patients this year. The treatment modifies existing cells from a patient, puts the cells back into the patient's body and then those modified cells fight the cancer cells.

Dr. Julie Vose says the treatment is considered a last resort because its long-term effects are still being researched. 

"It's too new, we don't know for sure what the long-term outcome is, it's only been around a few years, we don't have the 10-, 20-year information to know that," Vose said.

Peetsch says he has plenty of living left to do and has the CAR T to thank. 

"I would have died and how they said it was without the CAR T I didn't have a chance and if the CAR T does not work all they can do is make me comfortable."

Currently this treatment is just for patients with specific types of blood cancer but Dr. Vose hopes it can be expanded to include other types in the future.