Now, researchers are testing a revolutionary new procedure that uses the body's own natural killers to keep liver cancer from coming back.
For 20 years, Encarnacion Miranda has been the go-to guy at his Miami car dealership. But this year, he's been fighting a quiet battle with liver cancer.
"Even my boss here at Largo Honda always says that even though I knew that I was going down and dying that I never showed a day about it," Encarnacion Miranda, liver cancer survivor, told Ivanhoe.
He knew the odds were against him.
"Very scared, I was tremendously scared, but I didn't let that stop me," Miranda said.
"There's no one good treatment for this type of cancer," Andreas Tzakis, M.D., Professor of Surgery, Director of Liver and Gastrointestinal Transplant Program at U of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami said.
At Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miranda received a liver transplant, and with it, a new cancer treatment that made national headlines.
The experimental treatment utilizes specialized cells in the body known as natural killer cells. Research shows after a liver transplant, these natural killers can attack any liver cancer cells remaining in the body.
"What they do is they hone in to the tumor cells like smart bombs, like guided missiles. They're going to hone into the tumor cells and kill them." Dr. Tzakis said.
Natural killer cells were extracted from the donor liver, and cultured in the lab so they would strengthen and multiply into the millions. They were then injected into Miranda's bloodstream.
"If this is something that can avoid any type of tumors coming back ever. Why not?" Miranda concluded.
Now, thanks to the new treatment, this salesman's back on the lot, with one big difference -- he's cancer-free.
Researchers at the University of Hiroshima were the first to perform the killer cell cancer treatment on liver cancer patients who received live donor transplants -- improving three-year survival. Now, with help from those Japanese researchers, doctors at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine are doing the same procedure in deceased donor liver transplants.
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