I arrived in Duderstadt today to begin dendritic cell immunotherapy. I drove 5 hours from Prague and just made it in time for the initial meeting with Dr. Nesselhut and to have some initial blood tests done in preparation for Leukapheresis.
Leukapheresis involves being hooked up to a special machine that extracts blood from one arm, spins the blood to separate the various plasma components, extracts the white blood cells and returns the rest via the other arm.
Anyone who has been reading my blog probably knows about my feelings toward needles. I know its psychological, I know I should be used to it by now, but I still get sick when anyone tries to take blood from my veins, or worse. The chemo port is another matter. I have even accessed the port using the gripper needle myself, and I am totally fine with this. I don’t quite understand it.
Anyway, I was told that the port can not be used so had to have 2 cannulas put in. First one was not too bad, I got some hot flushes, but that was about all. The second arm proved to be somewhat more problematic. After several goes at trying to insert the cannula into various veins, they eventually gave up and decided to use the port after all. I was feeling quite ill by that stage, but I am making progress. Few months ago after multiple cannula insertion attempts like this I am sure that I would have passed out.
I spent about 2 hours hooked up to a dialysis style machine and I now have enough blood cells stored to produce enough dendritic vaccine to last months or even years. The frozen cells will be thawed as needed and grown in the lab to mass produce dendritic cells. The dendritic cells will then be activated by exposing them to antigens. The theory is that once re-introduced into the body, they will help to activate the immune system in a way that it recognizes the cancer cells. Unfortunately the response rate to this therapy is only 30%, however I have been told that the percentages do improve when combined with other therapies. One of these is the Removab triclonal antibody. This antibody attaches to epCAM positive cancer cells, tags the cells and exposes them to the immune system. Removab is used off label at Hallwang and as consequence, it will be the next stop on my cancer clinic world tour.
Following the Leukapheresis Procedure I felt very tired. I did plan to drive to Hallwang straight after, but decided to stay another day in Duderstadt. I did not think that a 6 hour drive would have been a good idea in my current state and Duderstadt is such a nice city anyway.
If the Dendritic vaccine does not work, plan B is the Newcastle Disease oncovirus. The virus attacks cancer cells leaving normal cells unharmed. The infected cancer cells are altered and become exposed to the immune system. Failing that, Plan C involves gamma-delta cells.