Thursday, January 18, 2007

And we're back!

With another scintillating and informative bout of verbal spewage from yours truly. Today I went back to the cancer clinic at UofC for another of the infamous bone-marrow biopsies. As I have noted, the results of this biopsy are as important as the first one they performed, which determined the extent of my leukemia. These results will tell us how well the first session of chemotherapy worked. If it worked, there should be no leukemia cells. If they detect the cells, then the treatment didn't work, and we need to discuss other treatment options. But we're pretty sure there should be no cancer cells left in my blood and marrow. So I now have one new incision hole and four more drilled holes in my hip bone. Sweet. After all this crap, you'd better believe I'll be...holey. HAH. Anyway.

So the other news is this: At the beginning of the treatment, the first time I met my team of doctors and nurses and they explained the treatment schedule to me, I signed up to take part in a leukemia study. The study involves an experimental chemotherapy drug for ALL patients, Campath-1H. Campath-1H is currently used for Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia patients, and they know it works for them. The study is basically looking to see if the drug will work for patients with Acute LL, what I've got. Here's what's cool about this special little chemo drug: Remember how I said way before that my drugs were "non-specific?" That they don't target the cancer cells, they just target all rapidly multiplying cells? Well, Campath-1H isn't like that. It isn't like that at all. Campath is actually a manufactured antibody that can attach to specific cells and Destroy Them!. (So, technically, by definition, it's not chemotherapy. Because it's an antibody. Not a chemical.) And now here's the super cool thing about all cells: they have these little receptors on them that allow antibodies to attach to them. (I could actually go into a lot of detail here about the proteins and sugars on the surface of cells; each little receptor is individualized; the receptors on antibodies are specific to the receptors on matching cells; etc... But I won't. I took a class on all this stuff. I still have to take the exam for this class in the fall.) Anyway. Basically, there is a receptor called CD52 on some leukemia cells. Campath, the antibody, essentially has the matching receptor for CD52. It attaches to the leukemia cells and Destroys Them!. Not all patients have the receptors, so not everyone qualifies for Campath. It wouldn't do anything for them, except probably make them sick. So at the beginning of this, when the doctors did their first bone-marrow biopsy (see, this all ties together), they took an extra marrow sample and sent it to Ohio State University where it was analyzed and whatnot. They were looking for CD52. And I found out today that... I am "moderately positive" for the receptor! Hoo-rah. Meaning, greater than 10% of my leukemia cells they looked at had it. So what this means for me: I will be getting Campath-1H. My chemo treatments will be extended for one more month. Now, I will finish chemo at the end of July, beginning of August-ish. But it's yet another thing that they're sure will destroy the cells, if any are left when they give me the Campath. The main thing they don't know about are the side-effects. There are about two and a half pages of possible side effects, everything from fatigue to swelling to this super sweet infection called Cytomegalovirus. I mean, come on, that's a sweet name, even if it has occasionally killed people. Meh. So yeah. I am one of about 300 people taking part in this study across the United States. Rock on, science! I have to keep going for check-ups for the next 10 years, but hopefully their findings will help ALL patients. I'm sure they will. So that's what's up today. I wrote a lot. Haha, I'll send you a cookie if you read all of it. I'll send you two if you understood it all. Alright, pax from the girl with the throbbing bum in Chicago.


Megan Amanda Steffen said...

Hey. You.

I am up right now finishing the last essay of my MoMA application. For you. So that we can see Dispatch. In New York. Yeah. It's almost four o'clock in the freaking morning.

I want my cookie.

Anonymous said...


Keep your spirits up. You are strong and from what I know amazing. I continue to be impressed with how you are handling all. Live and Be Strong!! you'll be this.

your distant CA cousin, Annie