First, I have to report that Trav is doing fantastic. He is seriously amazing. He was released from ICU yesterday.
This morning when I was leaving my hotel and heading to the hospital I text him and asked if he needed anything.
He text back:
“Parmesan cheese because when I can eat I want spaghetti”
I thought, “well Trav… dream big.” I got the blue Gatorade and I did NOT get Parmesan. I knew that he would not be eating solids today because yesterday they would hardly let him drink water.
When I walked into his room the doctor was visiting with him. She said hello to me and then she said, “Travis is doing so great that Dr. Kamula (his surgeon) said that he can eat solids today. What???? Shoot, I didn’t get the parm:). No problem because he changed his mind and opted for French Toast. That’s a nice Easter Brunch! He ate while we watched Andy Stanley’s Easter service online.
I am amazed by this guy. After the service we did five laps around the halls. The doctors just came in to visit again and they are so pleased with his progress. He will get his epidural and catheter removed tomorrow. That will make him VERY happy:)!
So, it’s great news that this surgery went well and that he is recovering so quickly because we can’t get to step two of this trial without going through step one.
Even though this surgery seems like a giant hurdle it really is only the beginning.
I have learned so much this week and I find it completely fascinating. I’m going to explain a little bit about this trial in my total non scientific way. If you are not interested in the process or the science then just skip to the bottom. I will never know:)!
We all have T cells in our body and they work to fight anything and everything that goes wrong inside of us. If we have a cold or a fever or a tumor, our immune system kicks in and sends these T cells to the problem spot to fight the problem. They are like Super Heroes in our bodies.
Unfortunately, from time to time, these cells are not strong enough, big enough, powerful enough to beat whatever they are fighting. Boom, you have Cancer!
Well, just because the T cells can’t beat the cancer tumors doesn’t mean they don’t try. These little buggers are attaching themselves to Trav’s tumors and they are doing their best. Each of his tumors are covered in T Cells trying to fight a losing battle.
Every T cell is not the same. They can not all fight the same things. They each have their own Super Power. The Super Power is called a receptor. Each T Cell has a distinct receptor. That receptor has to link up perfectly with the problem cell in order to destroy it. The problem is that there are not enough of the T Cells with the matching receptor fighting Trav’s cancer which is why it is a losing battle.
That is the purpose of this trial. Find the matching receptor to Trav’s cancer, manufacture a ton of them, and inject them back into him.
We found out that the surgeon was able to get 4 tumors out of the 2 wedges that he removed. This is great in that we may have more T cells to work with to find the right receptor.
Trav’s immune system is very strong so even though his immune system does not have enough of the cells with the right Super Powers/receptor to stand up against these cancer cells we hope that there is at least one of the matching T Cell that has attached to Travs tumor that has the correct receptor to be able to kill his cancer cells.
The Cholangio patient who is having success with this trial right now had just the right T Cell attached to her tumor and it cooperated and multiplied in the lab. Therefore when they injected the cells into her during phase two of the trial she had plenty of the correct T Cells put back into her body. That meant her immune system had enough of the correct type of T Cell to kill the cancer cells and she saw great success.
The doctor explained that if they put a cancer cell and a T Cell with a matching receptor together in the lab it looks like lock and key. A perfect match. They join together and that T Cell is able to kill the bad cancer cell. Good beats Evil right there in the lab.
I wish they had the time to test every T cell from Trav against his cancer cells to see if they can find that perfect match. Then I wish that they could just grow the correct cells and blast his cancer.
But, there are thousands of different types of T Cells with their own receptor types on Trav’s tumors so they do not have the time in the lab to do the testing.
The only thing that they can do is FIRST hope that SOMETHING grows in the lab. The scientist actually has to just watch the T Cells for 5 days after surgery without even touching them in the labs before they can start manipulating them and encouraging them to multiply.
Once they have multiplied they will document which cells multiply and how much of each type that they put back into his body.
The process of putting the cells back in to the body by injection does not sound pleasant at all, but we will share more about that when it comes. Every month after the treatment Trav will come back for a CT scan. They wait 2 months to determine whether they think the process is working.
If it works and his cancer starts shrinking they will know that they found the right key. That means one of the cell types they injected him with is a perfect match for his cancer. From there they will start trying to figure out which T Cell had the correct super power. They do that in the labs here and they will also send Travs T Cells and tumor cells off for a special immune system genetic testing.
The scientists here at the NIH were able to figure out exactly which cell worked for our Cholangio friend who is on this trial now. She has gone through this process twice. The first time she had this process done they found the cell by luck. That perfect T Cell that would fight her cancer was on her tumor and it multiplied in the labs. Her cancer was shrinking or stable for about a year and a half. The second time they did the process, because of what they learned during her first treatment, they were able to target a specific T cell from her tumor and multiply that cell with the perfect receptor. The docs here flooded her body with that T Cell type.
She is doing gang busters now. In 6 months she has had more tumor shrinkage than she did in a year and a half with the first treatment. She is actually a bit of a celebrity:). Her case is being published and the cancer world is getting really excited.
Can you imagine if this hospital can have positive results with another Cholangio patient on this trial. We can see the excitement on the doctors faces.
Now you know why we need the cells to grow and more specifically the RIGHT cell to grow. NO PRESSURE!!!
It is very exciting to be in this trial but we realize that we are in at the very beginning. I can see that this process, once perfected, will be amazing. Right now it is a bit of a crap shoot with finding the perfect cell. We are praying continually that the key to Trav’s cancer is in the lab right now and that it will multiply.
Please join us in that prayer. We know that you will because #TravsArmy is amazing!!!
Love and Hugs,