This is one patient, and results may not be indicative. Please note that GDA-201 is investigational and safety and efficacy have not been established by any agency.
When Wayne Altenbernd has the chance to travel, he often gets on his motorcycle and heads west from his home near Fargo, North Dakota, toward the mountains. “The expanse and vastness that is the Western U.S. is best enjoyed on two wheels, exposed to the elements,” he says.
But for the past 15 years, Wayne has found it harder to travel and engage in other activities while he has undergone various treatments for blood cancer. A self-described “eternal optimist,” he admits that the lengthy ordeal has taken its toll. “The history of the cancer has always been that it was constantly evolving, and with each evolutionary step it would be a more aggressive form than what it was previously,” Wayne says.
Wayne was first diagnosed with lymphoma in 2004. Radiation therapy put the cancer into remission for several years, but in 2008, his doctors found that the cancer had spread to his bloodstream and become a form of leukemia, called chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL.
Despite several rounds of chemotherapy, the disease progressed to an aggressive form called Richter’s transformation and stopped responding to treatment. That prompted Wayne’s doctor to recommend that he undergo a bone marrow transplant, a potentially curative treatment option for some patients with lymphoma and leukemia.
Wayne has six siblings, three of whom turned out to be a potential full match for the bone marrow transplant. One, an older brother, became his donor. “It’s one of the benefits of having a big family,” Wayne says with a smile.
Following the transplant in 2018, a bone marrow biopsy showed that the CLL was in remission. However, despite having a transplant from a matched related donor, Wayne’s lymphoma quickly returned and became resistant to conventional therapy.
Wayne’s doctors at the University of Minnesota told him about a Phase 1/2 clinical trial of GDA-201, Gamida Cell’s investigational immunotherapy that is designed to harness the cancer-fighting properties of natural killer (NK) cells to attack tumors. “It was shortly thereafter that the lymphoma started showing signs of being addressed,” Wayne says. Lymph nodes that his doctors had been monitoring began to shrink in size. Eventually, the tumor became undetectable.
“I don’t really linger on the negative aspects of anything. And I nearly feel as well as I did before this started to happen.”
Throughout his experience with cancer diagnosis and treatment, Wayne says that the support of family and friends has helped him to maintain a positive outlook. “I don’t really linger on the negative aspects of anything,” he says. “And I nearly feel as well as I did before this started to happen.”
Today, Wayne says he is looking forward to enjoying activities he hasn’t pursued in years.
“I really am not someone who has planned anything significant because of having dealt with this now for a number of years,” he says. “If the positive test results continue, it might give me pause to rethink what the future holds and what opportunities and options I have.”