Byron's cancer journey took him across many state lines, starting with initial therapy from his local oncologist in Virginia. As a former football player at the Naval Academy and a veteran, he found limited physical activity and the relentless side effects of treatment particularly frustrating: "I was alive, but I wasn't living."
As Byron's myeloma continued to progress, he sought more aggressive therapies in Boston, from Jacob Laubach, MD, MPP, at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. While he initially responded to the immunotherapy regimen, eventually the therapy's effectiveness began to wane. Byron's care team referred him to Dan Vogl, MD, MSCE, and Penn Medicine's myeloma team to participate in a new multi-center phase I clinical trial examining strategies to adapt CAR T cell therapy for multiple myeloma.
Byron would become the Abramson Cancer Center’s patient #1 in this early-stage trial aimed at engaging the immune system in the fight against myeloma.
And his results were exceptional. Not only did Byron's cancer respond, but for him that meant less time in the hospital and more time with his wife and two young children. It's been a year and four months since his initial CAR T cell infusion, and Byron is back to the activities he loves – getting out on the golf course or for a run, working full time, and most importantly being with his family. "CAR T doesn't just let you keep your life – it lets you live your life during treatment," shared Byron.
Just as exciting to Byron are the implications of this therapy for the world. Initial findings from the phase I study will help inform future approaches to achieving lasting responses for CAR T cell therapy in myeloma patients, so that more patients can experience the positive outcomes Byron has had.
“The Abramson Cancer Center’s multiple myeloma clinical research program includes a variety of new strategies to treat this challenging cancer. We always hope to be able to offer cutting-edge, experimental treatments- such as this CAR T cell trial-to our patients, in the hopes that more people can do as well as Byron has. The information we gain from our incredible patients participating in these trials allows us to improve the next generation of myeloma treatments for all patients”, adds Dr. Vogl.
Byron's faith and his deep appreciation for his medical care team – including Drs. Laubach and Vogl – his wife, and his children gave him the support he needed to keep fighting his myeloma.
And his message to his fellow cancer patients? Byron urges them to keep fighting for the day when a new therapy gives them another possibility: "I had no idea technology like CAR T existed a year ago – so I know it's hard to fight every day, but keep it up because you never know when that day of hope is going to show up."