Daughter’s Immune Cells Defeat Father’s Cancer

Thanks to a stem cell donation from his daughter Taylor, right, Dean Brooks is healthy and enjoying life.

When a CT scan revealed some unidentifiable and suspicious spots throughout Dean Brooks’ torso, the otherwise healthy 47-year-old didn’t want to take any chances. Instead of searching for a specialist in his Southern Maryland community, Dean and his wife drove straight to MedStar Georgetown University Hospital where he knew he would get exactly what he needed.

Especially if he had cancer.

“Over the years, I watched as a friend of my son’s and the husband of one of my colleagues both underwent cancer treatment at MedStar Georgetown,” he says. “And I was so impressed with the caliber of care and compassion they received. I just knew if I ever needed to be hospitalized for something serious, that was the place for me.”

As it turns out, Dean’s instincts were on target. He had an extremely aggressive variant of non-Hodgkin lymphoma—known as “double-hit” lymphoma—which would, indeed, need the full resources of MedStar Georgetown, home to the renowned Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center—the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Washington region. Within days, its experts had him on the first line defense, powerful chemotherapy.

But 12 months later, Dean relapsed. And that’s when he and his family opted for his best chance at an actual cure: stem cell transplantation.

Fortunately for him, MedStar Georgetown has the area’s only Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy Program. It’s also one of just 100 or so programs in the United States to be recognized by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy for all adult cell-based therapies: autologous (using a patient’s own cells), allogeneic (using cells from a donor), and the newest advancement, CAR T-cells.

“Because of Dean’s relative youth and previous health, we believed he had a good shot at getting better,” explains Pashna N. Munshi, MD, a hematologist and associate director of the Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy Program. “But while some cancers can be cured using the patient’s own stem cells, double-hit lymphoma is not one of them. We needed to find a wellmatched, related donor.”

Dean’s two adult children and his brother volunteered. His then-23- year-old daughter Taylor was the best candidate.

On November 8, 2017, Taylor’s stem cells were removed from her body through an IV. Hours later, her young and healthy cells were infused into her father’s body, planting the seeds for a whole new immune system to grow and overcome his cancer. And unlike solid organ transplant, both procedures were done without any incision or surgery for either patient or donor.

Dean was home with his family in Waldorf in time to celebrate Christmas together. By mid-April 2018—six months after transplant— he returned to work. Today, he’s cancer-free.

“Fighting cancer is hard, time-consuming, and a major challenge,” Dean admits, “but MedStar Georgetown and the stem cell process have given me and my family a real second chance at life.”

That’s been the goal of Scott Rowley, MD, director of the Stem Cell Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy Program, ever since the program began a mere five years ago.

“Stem cell transplantation and cellular immunotherapy can offer a definitive survival advantage for many patients,” he says. “As the only full-fledged, fullservice transplant program between Baltimore and Central Virginia, we’re honored to meet the needs of our area’s most critically ill residents, close to home.”

 

Learn More

For more information, visit MedStarGeorgetown.org/StemCell or call 202-444-3736 to make an appointment.