HACKENSACK, N.J. (WGEM) -- Mantle cell lymphoma is a rare, aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
It’s usually caught at late stages and until very recently, there were very few effective treatments.
Now, researchers have found a specialized CAR T-cell therapy that is making a life-saving difference.
Alain Fortier worked with hazardous materials for years.
So, he was keenly aware of subtle changes in his body when they started eight years ago.
“I experienced the rash on my arms and a tingling of my lips and a little bit of swelling of my knuckles,” recalled Fortier.
At first, Alain thought maybe he had seasonal allergies.
Instead, doctors diagnosed a rare form of blood cancer called mantle cell lymphoma, or MCL. Alain started a rollercoaster of drugs and chemo.
“It was always treatments and scans and visits and ‘no, that didn't work,’ ‘let's try something else.’ It was like constant,” shared Alain’s wife, Marie Fortier.
After four failed treatments, Marie searched online and found Dr. Andre Goy and his colleagues were part of the ZUMA-2 trial studying CAR T-cell therapy— removing a patient’s white blood cells and modifying them in a lab.
“It's a genetically modified lymphocyte that we grow before we infuse. We inject in a patient and then we monitor the patient,” explained Andre Goy, MD, Chair, John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center.
The CAR T-cell therapy is now called Tecartus.
Right after Alain’s treated cells were re-infused, he says he felt ... lousy.
“Four days later it was like a light switch on and off. My body started feeling much better,” Alain recalled.
For this husband and father of two, there’s now no evidence of cancer; the T-cells continue to work in his system.
“There's so much research being done with CAR T that no one should ever give up hope,” Alain shared.
After the ZUMA-2 trial was completed, the FDA approved the CAR T-cell therapy, Tecartus, which was formerly known as KTE-X19.
Dr. Goy says two-thirds of all the patients had a similar response to Alain’s with no evidence of cancer after the trial.