Capstran is a stage four cancer survivor following a unique
treatment for cancer patients.
wasnít supposed to be here today.
resident was diagnosed with melanoma in 1993 at the age of 25, when a
mole on his leg was determined to be malignant. "After treatment,
I was fine until 2006 when I felt a lump in my leg, which turned out
to be a softball-sized tumor. By that time, I was married and had
young children. This time it had progressed to the point where I was
told to get my affairs in order," he says.
Capstranís neighbor is an oncology nurse who helped him get an
appointment with Dr. John P. Hanson Jr., medical director of the
Immunology Department at Aurora St. Lukeís Medical Center and the
principal investigator of the Young TIL (Tumor Infiltrating
Lymphocytes) Clinical Trial.
recommended going to see Dr. Steven Rosenberg at the National
Institutes of Health in Bethesda, M.D.," he says. "I was
willing to try anything. My attitude was, Ďbring it oní."
underwent the treatment several years ago in Bethesda and is still in
remission today. The treatment involves a unique combination of
chemotherapy along with immune system cells (lymphocytes) and tumor
tissue from the patient. "Iím one of the lucky ones. I wasnít
supposed to make it this far, but Iím here and Iím very
grateful," says Capstran.
The Young TIL
Clinical Trial has shown remarkable signs of success in the treatment
of stage IV metastatic melanoma, and is now being offered to patients
in Milwaukee, says Hanson. Previously, the trial was only offered in
Israel and at the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.
person has an injury or infection, their immune system fights back
until the infection is gone. With cancer, the immune system is shut
down by the cancer cells and cannot fight back," Hanson explains.
"In this trial, we remove the lymphocytes from the tumor and try
to grow them in a culture until we have a very large number of cells,
called young TIL cells, which we use to try to overwhelm and kill the
John P. Hanson Jr.
qualify for this trial donate blood and tumor tissue, which are
processed by specially trained researchers in the Immunotherapy Lab at
Aurora St. Lukeís Medical Center in Milwaukee. After the cells have
been grown to a sufficient number, patients are admitted to the
hospital to receive chemotherapy drugs, administered over a period of
seven days to weaken their immune system to prepare it to receive the
TIL cells and avoid rejection. Next, the cells are reinfused into the
patient with the purpose of shrinking the tumor. "The TIL cells
are like sharks; they kill by attaching to the cancer and disrupting
its ability to reproduce," Hanson says. Finally, the patient
receives the drugs Interleuken-2 and Filgrastim to help their immune
system recover. The entire process takes less than a month, but after
patients are discharged from the hospital, they are monitored for
progress and for side effects.
made the trip to Bethesda, Rosenberg performed the surgery at the NIH
to remove the tumor in his leg. He remained at the NIH for treatment
after the surgery. "Ten months later, Rosenberg was trying this
new protocol or clinical trial, which is now being done at St. Lukeís.
They removed blood and tumor cells from my body and grew them in the
lab and then re-introduced them. I say that itís like Pac-man, the
way these cells devoured the cancer cells," he explains.
protocol has been quite successful, it does not work for everyone, so
Capstran knows just how fortunate he is. "More than three years
later, I am going in for regular blood work and scans and things have
been good. Now, I work out. I am active. I get to enjoy my family.
Something like this puts things into perspective."
The Young TIL
Clinical Trial has been going on for about nine months and has five
patients participating, but they are looking for at least 30 patients,
Hanson says. For more information, contact Aurora St. Lukeís
Immunotherapy Department at (414) 649-5818.
IDEAraiser: A Global Journey for Cancer Research is being held
Feb. 17 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the historic Pritzlaff Building at
333 N. Plankinton Ave., Milwaukee. The free event will provide
information about cancer prevention and treatment, food
samplings from local restaurants and entertainment. Visit
www.theidearaiser.com to RSVP and for more details.