On the brink of shedding her battle with acute myeloid leukemia, Shannon Camlek arrived at Mayo Clinic as a final hope. Her possibilities didn’t look good, however with the assistance of specialised genetic testing, notably FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization) research, medical doctors had been in a position to detect the particular gene mutations answerable for her signs and illness. The take a look at outcomes additionally helped Shannon’s care workforce goal her therapy accordingly, and at last put an finish to what Shannon likens as starring in her personal private horror film whereas seeking hope and therapeutic.
“Her white blood cell count was very high and there were all these leukemia cells (blasts) in her blood.” This is how Naseema Gangat, M.B.B.S., a marketing consultant in Mayo Clinic’s Division of Hematology, describes affected person Shannon Camlek’s situation when she first arrived at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus. It was April of 2018, and Shannon had been identified with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Her situation had deteriorated so dramatically that Shannon’s care workforce at Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, urged her to come back to Mayo Clinic as a last-ditch effort to increase her life.
To decide the suitable therapy for Shannon, Dr. Gangat ordered a second bone marrow biopsy, posthaste, after the primary one was misplaced in transit from Sacred Heart. “I was not in good shape,” says Shannon, 55, who resides in Fall Creek, Wisconsin, along with her husband Tim. “My platelets had been down, my white blood cell rely up. I used to be in what they name ‘blast crisis,’ and the genetic assessments from the bone marrow pattern held the solutions to my therapy plan. So, getting these outcomes was a matter of life and demise.”
DR. GANGAT ADDS, “WE NEEDED THE BONE MARROW RESULTS TO ACCURATELY PROGNOSTICATE OR RISK-CLASSIFY THE DISEASE. IN SHANNON’S CASE, THE CHROMOSOME TESTS WERE NORMAL, BUT HER FISH STUDY, WHICH IS ANOTHER GENETIC TEST, REVEALED AN ABNORMALITY WITH THREE COPIES OF THIS GENE CALLED KAT6A, AND MUTATION ANALYSIS HAD THE FLT3-ITD MUTATION.”
The FISH (fluorescence in situ hybridization) examine is a extremely delicate take a look at finished in Mayo Clinic’s Genomics Laboratory. The take a look at carried out on Shannon ran 16 totally different probe sets, together with the gene area KAT6A, which is how the third copy of the mutation was found (the norm is 2 copies).
The FLT3-ITD mutation put Shannon’s leukemia within the high-risk class, which meant a stem cell transplant was her solely viable therapy possibility. The presence of the FLT3-ITD mutation additionally supplied the chance to make use of FLT3-directed medicines. Foremost, given Shannon’s presentation with “blast crisis,” Dr. Gangat ordered a leukapheresis, a process to take away white blood cells and assist forestall organ injury. Shannon was then moved into an induction chemotherapy program consisting of cytarabine (7) + daunorubicin (3) plus.
“We performed disease assessment about a month after treatment was started,” Dr. Gangat says. “And there nonetheless had been about 4% of leukemia cells remaining, which we name ‘persistent AML.’ So, we did one other spherical of the identical therapy to allow the eradication of all leukemia cells. The stem cell transplant would not work as properly for those who go into it when illness remains to be present, as a result of it means you usually tend to relapse.”
A horror film that gained’t finish
The second spherical of chemo meant much more danger to Shannon’s probabilities of survival. “I got real sick in that second round,” she says. “I ended up in ICU with a lung hemorrhage. I acquired so dangerous we made plans for a funeral. I imply, it was like a horror film. I look again and I feel, ‘Was all this a dream? Did I really go through that and make it out the other side?’”
Once Shannon recovered from the second spherical of chemo and the following problems, a donor was looked for her stem cell transplant. Siblings are sometimes ultimate candidates as a result of there’s a increased probability of matching extra of the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) antigens — there are over 100 several types of these particular white blood cells, that are a part of the genetic make-up in every person’s immune system. The next match of those antigens makes for a greater engraftment of the donated bone marrow. Fortunately for Shannon, testing reveled her brother Pat to be an ideal match.
For this part of her therapy, Shannon got here below the care of Mithun Shah, M.D., Ph.D., a hematologist and marketing consultant in Mayo’s Division of Hematology. A giant worry for Dr. Shah was that Shannon may need recurrent bleeding in her lungs through the transplant process. To put together for that risk, he and his workforce had to verify there was a supply of donated blood prepared if wanted — and never simply any blood, however HLA antibody platelets. “That makes it very difficult for us to just randomly select donors for these specific platelets,” Dr. Shah says. “So, we had to talk to the transfusion team and make sure we had planned donors who would be ready to come in and donate on short notice.”
In August of 2018, Shannon underwent a stem cell transplant at Mayo Clinic. It was a whole success. “We had to use very minimal transfusion support, which is quite remarkable and very rarely seen in transplant,” Dr. Shah says. “And then, post-transplant, her counts recovered well, and Shannon came through it like a champ.”
A relapse doesn’t all the time imply “recreation over“
Even so, about 9 months after her transplant, Shannon relapsed. And that is the place Mayo’s specialised FISH testing, once more, helped inform and information the following stage of her therapy.
“WE DID A BONE MARROW BIOPSY, NOT EXPECTING ANY PROBLEMS TO BE THERE,” DR. SHAH SAYS. “BUT THEN WHEN WE RAN A MORE SPECIALIZED FLUORESCENCE IN SITU HYBRIDIZATION TEST, WE WERE ABLE TO SEE THAT LEUKEMIA CELLS HAD COME BACK. AND THAT WAS A UNIQUE PART OF HER STORY BECAUSE, USUALLY, WE DON’T HAVE TO RUN FISH TESTS FOR LEUKEMIA PATIENTS OVER AND OVER AGAIN. WE ARE USUALLY IN THE CYTOGENETICS LAB, AND THAT’S WHERE WE STOP. BUT IN SHANNON’S CASE, WE WENT FOR THE FISH STUDY WHERE THEY FOUND RELAPSE SOLELY BASED ON THAT TEST, MEANING HER LEUKEMIA WAS COMING BACK AT A VERY, VERY LOW LEVEL. SO THAT AGAIN INFORMED OUR DECISION TO COME DOWN ON IMMUNOSUPPRESSIVE MEDICATION.”
In accordance to the outcomes of her testing, Shannon was placed on focused medicine to handle the leukemia cells that had returned to her body. After two years, nevertheless, she was in a position to discontinue the meds and has been in remission ever since. “I’ve been in remission for four years,” she says. “My husband has been my rock through it all.”
Both Shannon and Tim don’t take flippantly the position that the Genomics Lab and different labs at Mayo Clinic performed in her therapy.
“THE PEOPLE DOING THE TESTING IN THE LABS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN AT THE HEART OF MY CARE,” SHE SAYS. “IT STARTS WITH THEM. WE WERE AMAZED BY THE WORK THEY DO, AND WHAT HAPPENS BECAUSE OF THE WORK THEY DO. THE DOCTORS GET ALL THE GLORY AND THE PAIN. BUT WE SAW FIRSTHAND THAT IT’S WHAT HAPPENS AT THE CELLULAR LEVEL THAT REALLY DRIVES THIS ORGANIZATION AND PATIENT CARE.”
Tim shares his spouse’s appreciation for Mayo Clinic’s lab workers. “I’m a sixth-grade science teacher, and I was amazed by the amount of elementary, middle, and high school science that goes on inside a workplace like Mayo Clinic,” he says. “And a theme that comes through in our narrative is those connections between the lab people, from a microscope and cellular level, on up to the doctors, and how that all works together. It’s changed how we look at medicine.”
The lesser-known “cost” of long-term cancer therapy
In all, Shannon and Tim ended up shuttling from Wisconsin to Rochester for eight months to get by means of all her therapies and follow-ups. For 5 of these months, they wanted to dwell on Mayo’s campus in downtown Rochester, however Shannon’s insurance coverage didn’t cowl the extra expense of housing. And due to her medical points, she had to surrender her beloved 28-year profession as a schoolteacher (third and sixth grades). The monetary pressure brought on extra stress they didn’t want throughout that point.
Because Shannon doesn’t need different cancer sufferers to must undergo the monetary complications and worries her household did over affected person housing, she and a buddy cofounded Home 4 Healing, a corporation that helps make housing extra inexpensive and accessible for sufferers whose therapy necessitates prolonged stays close to the Mayo Clinic campus.
“Dr. Gangat has been a key inspiration in helping me start Home 4 Healing,” Shannon says. “She truly mentioned to me, ‘We need this. We need to be able to offer people a place to go when we tell them they have to be here for long periods of time.’”
Shannon, in the meantime, stays below the care of Dr. Shah, who’s optimistic about her future. “We attempt to not use the phrase ‘cure’ for leukemia,” he says. “But every time I meet with Shannon, I tell her the chances of the leukemia coming back get smaller and smaller the longer she’s in remission. So, for all practical purposes, we hope, and we think, that she may be cured.”
This article first revealed on the Mayo Clinic Laboratories blog.