Fall 2017
Gratefully Yours

This day and years to come

courtesy of cynthia cattell

I want to send my thanks to both of you for making today possible for me and my family. My daughter-in-law delivered my first grandchild around midnight yesterday. Through the course of my illness and treatment over the last four years, this was something I often feared I would not live to see. It is so wonderful and exciting. 

I could never thank you enough for this day and the many days and years to come to see her growing up.

— Cindy

—U of M physics professor and lymphoma survivor Cynthia Cattell, Ph.D., in a March 2016 letter to Masonic Cancer Center scientist Daniel Vallera, Ph.D., and hematologist/oncologist Veronika Bachanova, M.D., Ph.D., who respectively developed the drug and ran the clinical trial that saved her life

In June of 2012, Cattell discovered that her nagging fatigue was something more serious than just end-of-semester burnout. She had aggressive B-cell lymphoma, a blood cancer that required immediate, intensive treatment.

That treatment—chemotherapy, radiation, and two bone marrow transplants—was brutal, leading Cattell into and out of the hospital for months. Worse, it wasn’t working; her cancer kept growing back. Then her doctor told her about a Phase I clinical trial underway at the U and asked if she was interested.

“I thought about it for about five minutes,” Cattell says, “then said, ‘Absolutely!’ Once you’re in a place where everything has failed, what do you have to lose?”

Bachanova enrolled her in the trial of a drug Vallera had designed with support from philanthropy. While Cattell suffered minor side effects, she felt healthy throughout the treatment.

One month later, Bachanova found a whopping 75 percent reduction in the size of Cattell’s tumor. Although the parameters of the trial called for just one course of treatment, Bachanova felt Cattell might benefit even more from a second course. Cattell agreed to it immediately.

One month after her second round of the drug, Cattell’s tumors had vanished. She remains in complete remission.

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