Watch CBS News

Health: Stand Up To Cancer Money Is Helping Local Leukemia Patients Survive The Disease

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Stand Up To Cancer is back in the spotlight.  The show is returning to prime time this Friday on CBS to raise money and awareness for cancer research. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on how the money raised is helping leukemia patients right here in Philadelphia thanks to promising therapies.

Nora George is looking forward to growing old with her husband Anthony, and watching her grandchildren grow up.

But less than two years ago she wasn't sure that would be possible, after doctors told her she had acute myeloid leukemia.

"He said Nora I would give you three months with this. And then it was just like, I just started crying because you have a family and all," said Nora. She didn't respond to standard treatment. But an experimental drug called SGI-110 gave her hope.

"We saw very early on some spectacular successes," said Dr. Jean-Pierre Issa, researcher at the Fox Chase-Temple Bone Marrow Transplant Program. He along with Dr. Trish Kropf at the Program are testing the next generation of epigenetic therapy, using genes to fight cancer. It's being funded by Stand Up To Cancer.

"We're looking essentially to clean up the DNA, not just kill the cell. The need is huge, and the response has been dramatic," said Dr. Kropf.

Nora was part of the study testing the drug that was able to reprogram her cancer cells, making them behave like normal cells.

"That re-education has different results. Sometimes the cancers disappear. Sometimes they boost the immune system and the immune system clears the cancer cells. And sometimes the cancer cells sort of persist but they become a chronic disease," said Dr. Issa. Meaning some can live with the cancer.

For Nora, the new therapy put her cancer in remission, allowing her to get a bone marrow transplant.

"It absolutely saved my life. Never stop fighting. Keep on going. And stand up, yes stand up to cancer and say hey, you're not going to beat me.  I'm going to beat you," said Nora.

Doctors at Temple are working collaboratively with researchers across the United States on this trial. The goal is to make these drug discoveries in the lab as a group, and then get them tested on patients quickly. The other institutions are testing the therapy on lung, breast, colon and liver cancers.

These experimental medications are less toxic, so they have fewer side effects, making it easier for patients.

Stand Up To Cancer Epigenetic Dream Team Information-

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.