In 2012, Bob Levis, an Allentown, Pennsylvania resident, believed he had come to the end of his life. Diagnosed in 2002 with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the cancer had resisted every possible treatment and had infiltrated his bone marrow, paralyzing his immune system and stifling the production of life-saving blood cells. By January 2013, he was living from one blood transfusion to the next with hardly the energy to breathe and was denied further treatment at a drug trial because his blood counts were so low.
After a long painful journey, he had exhausted all options, so he thought. No more bicycling, no golf, and little time left with family.
Salvation came in response to a plea to Dr. Carl June at the University of Pennsylvania, whose life-saving immunotherapy treatment, based on research first funded by ACGT, had made headlines throughout the world. Dr. June was inundated with requests and his trial was reserved for patients who had no options and no hope. Levis’ blood markers confirmed that he was a perfect candidate for the revolutionary trial and he was enrolled as patient number 15.
The trial used a disabled version of an HIV virus as the vector for patients’ own genes to turn on the immune system. After just one injection, ‘hunter’ T-cells multiplied dramatically. The only side effect was flu-like symptoms that depleted his already weakened frame, but he rallied quickly and, miraculously, Bob Levis was free of cancer. Within two months of the trial, he said he felt like himself again and he is back on the golf course. He returns to the lab three times a year for blood work and the T-cells produced in the trial continue to stand guard against recurrence.
Three years later, Bob is still cancer-free and preparing to celebrate Father’s Day with his family.