Day zero:  Super T-cell infusion day!

Ralph received his new T-cells on 3/25 at 11:54 am.  What an exciting day for all of us, but especially for him!

Vials & vials of research blood were collected this morning and all baseline scans have been completed.  His blood cells have traveled to Chicago and back and have been genetically modified. He’s had 3 rounds of chemo to suppress the immune system to improve the chances the new cells will be able to survive in his body. 

Those new T-cells should identify Ralph’s cancer cells as foreign and attack them and kill them!  Yes Lord we pray for that!  We actually prayed over the cells and got an amen from everyone in the room!

Ralph watching his T-cells

Infusion Time:

His research team gathered in the room and watched the 5 minute infusion of a very very small bag of 75.8 million cells. “Big things come in small packages” said Admiral Childs, PI of the trial.  “It’s not about quantity but quality and we have a very high quality product” continued Dr. Childs.  “His cells are fighters, just like Mr. Knapp” said Dr. Rosa Nadal.

Dr. Barisic taking the T-cell bag back to the lab

After the cells infused they flushed the infusion bag with saline and infused the flushed contents four times just to be sure he got every single cell in that bag. The bag was taken back to the lab and the remaining cells if any would be counted.  They promised Ralph that he got 100%.  These cells with their genetic modification will now replicate in Ralph’s body, and the hope is that this small army of cells will begin to identify and attack his cancer cells, killing them.

Immediately after the new cell infusion, he was given his 1st dose of Interleukin (IL-2) to mobilize the T-cells and help them stay alive longer.  Every 12 hours he will receive an IL-2 infusion.  The goal is to get as many as his body can tolerate up to 14 doses.  Since Ralph has lots of disease around his heart and in the lung area, he will likely not max out the doses due to serious side effects.  Dr. Childs said he would be happy with at least 6-10 doses.

The Research:

Dr. Childs, the primary doctor & principal investigator on this trial who has spent the last 20 years researching and developing this treatment, told us now that the cells have been given back to Ralph, they will begin “waking up” over the next couple hours. In addition to his efforts over the past 20 years, there have been hundreds of people involved in the process of bringing this treatment to the point it’s at today.

Ralph’s research team is very thorough and focused on him.  There are 10+ doctors on his team constantly monitoring him.  I also like that they keep his main oncologist, Dr. Hans Hammers in the loop and updated.  After all, Hans has been an integral part of Ralph’s care since diagnosis almost 5 years ago.

This is a big deal for Ralph to have qualified and have this opportunity. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage everyone to watch First In Human on the Discovery Channel.