These cancers of the white blood cells present symptoms such as enlarged lymph nodes, fever and weight loss, and don't always respond to traditional therapies. Now, a national clinical trial is testing a new kind of chemo that could make a lifesaving difference.
This has been the hardest year of Steven Guarin's young life.
"The first time they told me I was sick, the first thing I did was kind of jump on the guitar and try to forget, you know," Guarin told Ivanhoe.
He's fighting a type of Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Steven's endured chemo and a bone marrow transplant, but after the third relapse, he thought it was over.
"I stopped listening to music completely for four weeks. I even cut it off with friends. I was really depressed," Guarin recalled.
Dr. Joseph Rosenblatt fought to get Guarin into a clinical trial he thought could save his life.
"They didn't want to give an experimental medicine to someone who's sick, who's very sick," Guarin said.
The experimental treatment links a powerful chemotherapy called mono-auristatin with an antibody developed at the University of Miami. The antibody – SGN 35 -- targets the drug directly to a protein on the surface of lymphoma cells -- leaving healthy cells alone.
"This is an emerging class of drugs in which you link an antibody, that allows you to target vanishingly small amounts of chemotherapy because it all goes to where it's supposed to go," Dr. Rosenblatt explained.
Within 36 hours, most of Guarin's tumors disappeared. After four cycles of the new chemo, he was in complete remission -- with no side effects. His battle with cancer isn't over, but for the first time in a long time, he feels like he's winning.
Guarin was the very first US patient in the phase two study for this still-experimental therapy. Sadly, Guarin passed away from a complication unrelated to this trial shortly after our interview. His family says Guarin would have wanted to share his story to spread the word about the trial and help other cancer patients.
If you would like more information, please contact:
Joseph Rosenblatt, M.D.
UM Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center