Gene therapy was a boy’s last chance to stop leukemia. And it worked.
Shaun Banagan’s story
When Shaun Banagan hops up on the exam table in a doctor’s office at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital his small frame barely crumples the wax paper. The shy 13-year-old has very thin arms and slight wrists.
It’s October, 2017, and Shaun and his family are waiting anxiously for his oncologist, Dr. Jennifer Willert, to read his latest lab results.
“He’s in full remission right now without any detectable disease,” Willert says. “So, he’s as negative as you can possibly get!”
The small teen pulls aside his surgical face mask and smiles.
A Grueling Battle
Shaun is one of at least 50 children who are in remission because of a breakthrough treatment that engineers the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Last August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the treatment — the first accepted gene therapy in the nation — based on the success of clinical trials like Shaun’s.
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