Mother who lost son to cancer continuing the fight for a cure

It's a parent's worst nightmare: losing a child to cancer. After the funeral is over and the family members go home, what do you do next?

As one mom has shown us, it's possible to turn tragedy into triumph.
Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down. "He was the bravest person I know,” she said. “He never complained. He never said, 'why me?'”

At just 22 years old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia.

"I personally don't want any family to go through what we went through," she added.

That's why Leslie is pedaling for a cure. Her son's fraternity brothers in Pi Kappa Alpha at the University of New Hampshire created Cycle for Life, a fundraising event held on college campuses across the country.

Participants pay $10 to ride a stationary bike for half an hour. All of the donations go toward cancer research - and so far, it's paying off.

Last year, Cycle for Life granted stem cell therapist Doctor Dean Lee at MD Anderson Cancer Center $250,000 to start a phase one clinical trial on a new leukemia treatment using immune cells donated by a related family member, called natural killer cells or NK cells.

But chemo not only attacks the cancer, it also kills all the NK cells. Doctor lee has found a way to grow more n-k cells - in mass. Using blood from a donor, he takes the n-k cells, multiplies them by 30-thousand times their original amount and injects them into the patient.

"NK cells’ job are really not to identify a specific target,” explained Lee, “but really to look at this combination of what's good and what's bad about a cell. And if a cell has an overall balance of things that look dangerous, that's when it decides to kill the cell."

It's a beacon of hope for Taylor's friends and family.

"It's almost like the Phoenix, you know?” said Demetri Kouloheras, Taylor’s friend. “He passed away but something greater came out of his cause."

"He'd be amazed. I mean, he would go, 'Really? For me?'" said Leslie.

She will do anything to stop the disease that took her son's life.

MEDICAL BREAKTHROUGHS
RESEARCH SUMMARY

TOPIC: PEDALING FOR A CURE
REPORT: MB # 3768

BACKGROUND: Leukemia is cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as bone marrow and causes large numbers of blood cells to be produced and enter the bloodstream. Most normal blood cells develop from cells in the bone marrow, called stem cells. Bone marrow is the soft material in the center of most bones. Stem cells will develop into different kinds of blood cells each with a specific job. White blood cells fight infection. Red blood cells carry oxygen to tissue throughout the body. Platelets help form blood clots that control bleeding. These cells are made from stem cells as the body needs them. Most blood cells mature in the bone marrow. Then they will move into the blood vessels. When someone has leukemia, their bone marrow makes abnormal white blood cells, called leukemia cells. (Source: www.cancer.gov)
RISK FACTORS: The exact cause of leukemia is unknown. Researchers do know that there are certain risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing the disease. They include:
• Radiation: people exposed to high levels are more likely to get acute myeloid, chronic myeloid, or acute lymphocytic leukemia.
• Smoking: cigarettes increase the risk of acute myeloid leukemia.
• Chemotherapy: cancer patients treated with certain types of drugs sometimes can get acute myeloid leukemia or acute lymphocytic leukemia.
• Inherited Diseases: Down syndrome, blood disorders, Human T-cell leukemia virus type 1, family history of leukemia, and other inherited diseases increase the risk of developing acute leukemia. (Source: www.cancer.gov)

NEW TECHNOLOGY: Dr. Dean Anthony Lee, at MD Anderson Cancer Center, is testing a new way to treat leukemia. He's studying something called natural killer (NK) cells, which essentially look at cells and determine whether they are considered good or bad. If they encounter a bad cell, they kill it. But because these cells originate in the bone marrow, in patients with leukemia their production is stopped or slowed down. Although they've been known about since the 1970s, not much research has been done on their effect. Dr. Lee is currently growing large amounts of these cells, in an effort to determine if they can be used in a treatment or therapy. (Source: Dr. Dean Anthony Lee)
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Dean Anthony Lee, MD, PhD
dalee@mdanderson.org
Office: 713-563-5404

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com


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