Sandra Davis-Quinney has been met with bumps, curves and stops on the ride that is her cancer journey. Even with the rough roads she’s endured, Sandra tries to stay hopeful, resiliently staying on the ride.
Staying on the ride is exactly what brought her to UF Health Cancer Center’s Jack Hsu, M.D.
After failing multiple rounds of chemotherapy from 2017 to 2019 in an effort to treat her non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Sandra’s next option was a stem cell transplant. However, when her physicians were unable to collect enough stem cells for a transplant, that option was taken off of the table. Heading home to Jacksonville to get back on medication and let her body “get itself together,” Sandra met with her UF Health Jacksonville oncologist, Joseph Mignone M.D., and began looking into other available options.
When she learned about the novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, a genetic therapy that modifies the patient’s own cells to attack their cancer, at UF Health, she knew her ride was just gaining momentum. Sandra was a candidate for the treatment, but she wasn’t just any candidate – she was the first CAR T-cell patient at UF Health.
Hsu and his UF Health Bone Marrow Transplant Unit team spent two years preparing to become certified as a CAR T-cell therapy site – developing policies and procedures, building relationships with subspecialties and earning an accreditation for their stem cell lab. In October of 2018, UF Health became a designated site for administering the therapy.
“This is the first genetic therapy that was approved for the treatment of adult hematologic malignancies” Hsu said. “It provides another option for patients who have very high risk lymphoma.”
The reality of being the first CAR T-cell patient at UF Health didn’t sink in for Sandra until the process was set in motion, she said. She had heard about different trials and new treatments, but now she was the star of the show in one.
“Being the first patient is a big deal,” she said. “If it affords other people the opportunity and the availability is here for them, then that’s great.”
To read the rest of Sandra’s story, click here.