I’ve just had a conversation with Dr. David Krag, head researcher at the University of Vermont Cancer Research Lab supported by the Cast Off Chemo! project, and my brother-in-law. He and his team, in collaboration with other researchers in incredibly wide-ranging fields, have been continuing work on the personalized immunotherapy to eradicate cancer cells we’ve been supporting through the Denise Pink Project.
Each October, I try to get him stop long enough to explain to me what he’s up to, in language I can understand. That’s a challenge! I’ll do my best to summarize for you what he told me, and dear friends, the news is great.
After lots and lots of testing (part of preliminary research is a lot of finding out what doesn’t work, which of course is why it’s called preliminary), he and his team have developed a procedure that looks like it works, and the great news for patients is that it is much simpler than what they thought they would need to do.
In a 2015 video on our website, he explains the direction of the lab’s research. They have moved forward from that point in an exciting new way. It’s still a personalized treatment, still involving the patient’s own cancer cells, which are particular to the patient, though many other patients may also have the same kind of cells. They still use the sentinel node tracer (developed in the Krag lab and now standard of care throughout the field of cancer treatment) to find the key lymph node that drains from the tumor and collects the cancer cells. They still look at the cancer cell to find the particular antibodies that are already attacking it. But here is where things change: after removing a lymph node they have found a way to recover the special cells that make antibodies. The next step is to then produce sufficient quantity of these antibodies to treat a cancer. Taking this a step further, they are making a vaccine that will stimulate the immune cells to make antibodies exactly to the problem: the mutated abnormal portions of the cancer cell. Once stimulated, the cells will be recovered from the lymph node to make antibodies against the specific cancer.
The Krag lab is working with a lab in Texas to isolate the cancer fighting antibodies and then rev them up to proliferate and do the job they were intended to do: fight foreign matter in the body. Ta da!
Sounds simple, right? Well, it’s not! It involves isolating individual cells, using the cancer cell’s DNA and lots of other very complicated stuff that I won’t even try to explain, mostly because I can’t! But one thing I did understand clearly is that all of this takes funding to keep moving forward, and I heard again how important all of our donations have been in bringing the research this far.
David is confident that they are close to getting this preliminary research over the hump of finalizing the procedure and then using it in living tissue. Once they have cleared this step, they can apply for major grants to move it from the preliminary stage into clinical trials and into cancer clinics where it will be used in patients – our friends and family, the ones we care about and the reason we’ve been supporting this research all along.
Together, we are making a real difference in cancer treatment, and soon, we can all “Cast Off Chemo” and expect to use this safe effective and benign treatment when the word “cancer” whispers its ominous message in our lives.
So dear friends, I want to thank you for your continued support of the Cast Off Chemo! project. Every dollar you have contributed through the Denise Pink Project and other has gone directly to this project – 100%. But don’t stop now! They still need to complete this final hurdle, so if you feel inspired like I do, you can make a donation on the Denise website or at CastOffChemo.org.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!