Eighteen years ago, I began a journey with my dad that profoundly impacted me personally and professionally. At the time, I was expecting my oldest daughter Emily when my healthy and active father was diagnosed with a rare and then hard-to-treat bone marrow disorder called myelofibrosis.
With limited treatment options, this diagnosis did not have a great prognosis. Through the incredible organization Gift of Life, my dad was twice matched with selfless bone marrow donors, enabling him to undergo two separate life-saving stem cell transplants. Five years ago, thanks to scientific advances, I was able to be his donor for a third transplant.
During that time, I experienced first-hand that we could save lives by looking within ourselves. For hundreds of millions of years, the body’s immune system has been evolving to better protect us and keep us healthy. It’s a force inside your body so powerful that most of the time, it’s able to detect and fight disease —often before you even realize that you’re sick. Our body’s capability is nothing short of amazing.
At Adaptive Biotechnologies, we believe that we have a great opportunity to harness this capability to power a new era of medicine – which we call immune medicine – to detect and treat disease by learning from the way the body’s immune system does it naturally. Many of the clinical products we have developed are using our technology to help people with certain leukemias and lymphomas detect the smallest amount of remaining blood cancer cells that can stay in the body during and after treatment or transplant –a sign that the cancer is returning.
We are also working in partnership with Genentech to leverage our immune medicine platform to identify T-cell receptors – the first responders of your adaptive immune system to recognize cancer – that can be engineered into cellular therapies for cancer patients. The progress in this area has been amazing and life changing for so many people in need of new treatment options.
On this World Cancer Day, I am in awe of the cancer community and the resiliency that has been shown during this especially difficult time. Patients are still fighting. Caregivers continue to show up. Physicians are seeing their patients. Donors are still raising money. Research advances. At Adaptive, our lab and lab support staff have continued to show up every day, despite their own personal hardships caused by this pandemic.
The power of the human body to fight disease is nothing short of extraordinary and the individual stories behind every immune system are unique. By decoding these stories, we can create better endings for more people battling disease, whether it’s cancer, COVID-19, or beyond.
Today, at the young age of 78, my dad is cured. As a long-time volunteer and board member for The Valerie Fund, I’ve had a front seat to witness the incredible therapeutic advances that are leading to more cures in children with cancer and blood disorders. At Adaptive, we will continue to innovate to give everyone this same chance.
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