Removing barriers so a little girl can receive her life-saving treatment.
Valery Hernandez is a 9-year-old girl from the Dominican Republic. She was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2019. After two years of chemotherapy at the Instituto de Oncologia in the Dominican Republic, her cancer finally went into remission.
But the leukemia was so aggressive that it returned after only five months.
While a bone marrow transplant was her only option, the hospital in DR does not perform pediatric bone marrow transplants.
The medical team there referred her to the Icla da Silva Foundation.
We helped identify a transplant center in the U.S., Nemours Children’s Health, for her bone marrow transplant. After reviewing her case, a study for CAR T-cell therapy was identified at the National Institute of Health (NIH).
A team of doctors were interested in Valery’s case for a clinical trial.
What is CAR T-Cell Therapy?
CAR T-cell therapy is a treatment in which a patient’s T cells (a type of immune system cell) are changed in the laboratory so they attack cancer cells. T cells are taken from a patient’s blood. The gene for a special receptor, which binds to a specific protein on the patient’s cancer cells, is added to the T cells in the laboratory. This receptor is called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR). A large number of these CAR T-cells are grown in the laboratory and given to the patient by infusion.
CAR T-cell therapies, and other antibody-based therapies, are used to target surface proteins found on leukemia cells. The goal is to improve outcomes for patients with blood cancers that do not respond to chemotherapy.
The family cried with joy after learning about the clinical trial.
CAR T-cell therapy, followed by a bone marrow transplant, was the best opportunity for long-term survival.
There were many barriers we helped remove in order to give Valery her chance at survival:
- Identify a Transplant Center in the U.S. for her bone marrow transplant
- Petition to get her accepted for the clinical trial at NIH in Bethesda, MD
- Support her application for a temporary humanitarian visa
- Arrange accommodations at NIH
- Arrange travel for the donor to transplant her blood stem cells
The first phase of the treatment, the CAR T-Cell therapy, was a success.
The Next Phase
Valery is doing great! She has been transferred to Nemours Children’s Health for her bone marrow transplant, which will happen in a few weeks.
The Foundation assisted with the arrival of her donor, Valery’s younger sister.
She is a perfect match.
We have been in constant contact with the family and continue to support them with logistical and emotional needs on their journey to a cure.
We are grateful for the amazing medical teams that are caring for Valery and her family.
Please consider making a donation and help us remove barriers for more patients like Valery.
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Written by: Bret Itskowitch