Homewood Man Shows “Astounding” Results in Leukemia Clinical Trials

Cancer research at Ingalls designed to treat patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) works so quickly that several patients experienced complete remission of their disease within weeks.

Gary Zeld of Homewood is one of them.

One of the hallmark symptoms of CLL is extreme fatigue — something that the 67-year-old is all too familiar with. But once he enrolled in the M13-982 study at Ingalls — one of the first hospitals in the national to offer the breakthrough study — Gary’s fatigue vanished.

“I didn’t know how bad I felt before until I started feeling so much better,” he explained.

Gary’s story begins in 2008, when a routine blood test and physical showed a low red blood cell count. His primary care doctor referred him to a specialist for a blood marrow test.

When those results came back, the news was shocking: Gary was diagnosed with CLL, the most common form of adult leukemia.

Symptoms include enlarged, but painless, lymph nodes, fatigue, fever, pain in the upper left portion of the abdomen (likely caused by an enlarged spleen), night sweats, weight loss and frequent infections.

Other than fatigue, the active grandfather of six said he was symptom-free. His doctors recommended “watchful waiting,” until non-stop lethargy got the better of him last fall.

“The tiredness crept up on me,” he recalls. “I would try to mow the lawn or rake leaves, and I’d have to stop to rest.”

That’s when Ingalls hematologist/oncologist Mark Kozloff, M.D., Medical Director of Ingalls Cancer Care, recommended the M13-982 Study at Ingalls. The study uses the investigative drug ABT-199, a targeted therapy that attacks the cancer cells only, leaving the body’s healthy cells alone.

CLL is characterized by the production of atypical lymphocytes. Produced in the bone marrow, these cells help the body fight infection.

“The large majority of CLL cases involve mature B-lymphocytes that tend to live much longer than normal,” Dr. Kozloff explained.

“The M13-982 Study targets a specific enzyme on the cancer cells to stop the over-production of white blood cells and allow them to die normally,” Dr. Kozloff added. “It is showing very promising results. In fact, within days of Mr. Zeld’s first dose, his lymphocyte count had dropped dramatically!”

“It happened quicker than anyone thought,” Gary added.

He will remain on the trial for the next two years. In the meantime, he’s enjoying his newfound energy by spending time with his family and looks forward to resuming yard work in the spring.

“This was my first experience with Ingalls and Dr. Kozloff,” he said. “He’s a great doctor. I’m feeling very positive; everything is going well.”

For more information about the M13-982 Study or other clinical trials available through Ingalls Cancer Care, call 708.915.HOPE (4673).

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