STANFORD, Calif. (KGO) -- Nicole Shaw is full of life, and loves to ride her Harley in the Santa Cruz Mountains. But her life almost came to an end, when her lymphoma suddenly returned.
"There was no more options. And I knew that. When I was told my cancer was back I was devastated, and I didn't have much time to live," Shaw said.
But Nicole's final chance was a clinical trial at Stanford. There, David Miklos, M.D., and his team used a ground breaking cancer therapy developed by Kite Pharma. It works by genetically altering the patient's own immune cells, which in turn attack and destroy the cancer.
"We're taking those cells that we hoped would help us avoid cancer in the first place and we're adding a little bit more power," Miklos explained.
And in the case of Fernando Guerrero, the Stanford team is taking that power a step further. To treat his particularly aggressive lymphoma they're using a new experimental version of the therapy, which creates extra targets for the immune cells to attack. "When he first told me and explained to me with some drawings of what he was going to do, I said 'yes, I'm in,'" Guerrero said.
Crystal Mackall, M.D., said the strategy is so promising, it could be the key to attacking and even curing a wide range of cancers. "This is incredible. I am absolutely convinced that we will be able to make these therapies more effective for patients with Leukemia and Lymphoma, but extend this to other diseases like brain cancer and some of the most difficult to treat cancers," Mackall said.
Nicole has now been cancer free, and spends every moment with her 10-year-old daughter. Fernando has faith he'll reach his own goal -- to one day attend his young granddaughter's wedding. "I want to be there, to hold her with my son, on each side and go down the aisle."
For Kite Pharma / Yescarta or CAR-T inquiries, call Stanford Blood and Marrow Transplantation at (650) 723-0822.
Written and produced by Tim Didion.