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Kansas mother cancer-free thanks to new FDA-approved treatment

SHAWNEE, Kan. – In Johnson County, Kansas, mom has been cancer-free for seven years. The therapy in the clinical trial she was part of is now FDA approved and helps blood cancer patients faster than before.

She said the treatment saved her life.

Three, five and seven – those were the ages of Emily Dumler’s children when she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“Every day is a gift,” Dumler said.

In 2013, she spent 43 days in hospital as doctors struggled to find out why she was bleeding so much. She was 32 years old.

“You never think life will go back to normal, you know, I lost my hair five times. I lost 30 pounds,” Dumler said. “I missed Christmas with my family. I miss family vacations. You’re just on the sidelines and so sick.

Dumler’s battle began with chemotherapy. The cancer came back.

Doctors from the University of Kansas Health System suggested a stem cell transplant.

“Unfortunately, relatively soon after the stem cell transplant, Emily’s terrible disease came back with a vengeance,” said Dr. Joseph McGuirk. “Now we were backed into a corner.”

After two years of fighting, Dumler had six months to live.

“It’s absolutely devastating when you’re given a time limit, when you have to beat this cancer that you’ve already failed to beat twice,” Dumler said.

However, hope was on the horizon.

McGuirk and his team referred Dumler to an immunotherapy called CAR T-Cell. A clinical trial took place a week later in Houston.

Dumler was the third person in the world to complete the diet – and it worked.

After a month, she went into remission. Seven years later, she was cured of cancer.

Since then, her children have celebrated many birthdays.

“They are 11, 14 and 15 now,” Dumler said.

The good news keeps coming.

The therapy is FDA approved for second-line treatment, which has removed one more barrier between the patient and this treatment. People can bypass intense stem cell transplantation and go straight to this therapy, after chemo.

“That was always my hope, after getting this treatment,” Dumler said. “I just wish patients could get it as soon as possible because it’s so life-changing.”

McGuirk said KU Health System participated in the randomized trials that led to the FDA approval.

“It’s a complete game changer and it will save thousands of lives,” McGuik said.

McGuirk said they were preparing to roll out another study to see if this treatment would be a good first-round option.

It could take a few years to see these results. But as Dumler would tell you, hope can carry a heavy burden.

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