(04/25/14) - From one woman's nightmare came a cross-country fundraising effort that has hundreds of people pedaling for a cure for the cancer that robbed her son of his life.
Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau's world came crashing down, "he was the bravest person I know. He never complained. He never said, 'why me?'"
At just 22 years old, Leslie's son, Taylor, lost his battle with leukemia, "I personally don't want any family to go through what we went through."
That is why Leslie is pedaling for a cure. Her son's fraternity brothers, in Pi Kappa Alpha at the University of New Hampshire, created Cycle for Life, a fundraising event that is now held on college campuses across the country. Participants pay $10 to ride a stationary bike for half an hour. One hundred percent of the donations go toward cancer research.
Last year, Cycle for Life granted stem cell therapist, Dr. Dean Lee at MD Anderson Cancer Center, $250,000 to start a phase one clinical trial on a new leukemia treatment.
The treatment uses immune cells, donated by a related family member, called natural killer cells or NK cells, Lee says, "their job is to try to kill cancer."
The problem is, chemotherapy not only attacks the cancer during treatment, it also kills all the NK cells. So, Dr. Lee found a way to grow more NK cells - lots of them. Using blood from a donor, he takes the NK cells, multiplies them by 30,000 times their original amount and injects them into the patient.
"NK cells job are really not to identify a specific target, but really to look at this combination of what's good and what's bad about a cell. And if a cell has an overall balance of things that look dangerous, that's when it decides to kill the cell," Dr. Lee explains.
The research is a beacon of hope for Taylor's friends and family, like Demetri Kouloheras, "It's almost like the phoenix, you know? He passed away but something greater came out of his cause."
"He'd be amazed. I mean, he would go, 'Really? for me,'" Leslie said.