Eight years post-transplant, Stacey Khoury reflects on her journey
At 51 years old, Stacey Khoury doesn’t take her health for granted. Few people in her shoes would.
When she was 34, Stacey was diagnosed with breast cancer. An aggressive course of chemotherapy put the cancer into remission, but eight years later, she went back to her oncologist complaining of severe fatigue.
At the time, Stacey, a gemologist who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, simply wrote it off to working too much and not getting enough exercise. “I went home at night and I would fall asleep on the sofa. No dishes were done, I was so tired,” she recalls. A bone marrow biopsy revealed something far more serious: Stacey had acute myeloid leukemia, or AML.
Following intense induction chemotherapy for AML, Stacey was advised to receive a bone marrow transplant, a potentially curative treatment option for patients with high-risk blood cancers like AML. In this procedure, patients receive high-dose chemotherapy to eliminate residual leukemia followed by an infusion of cells from a healthy donor in order to reconstitute their bone marrow and immune system. However, like many patients who are eligible for bone marrow transplant, Stacey did not have a match within her family. Indeed, an estimated 40 percent of eligible patients do not receive a transplant for a variety of reasons, including the inability to find a match, whether it’s a family member or other donor.
That’s when her oncologist told Stacey about an ongoing Phase 1/2 clinical trial of an investigational, advanced cell therapy with the potential to make transplant a reality for more patients.
This investigational therapy, called omidubicel, consists of stem cells that have been expanded using Gamida Cell’s proprietary NAM technology to ensure there are enough functional cells for a therapeutic dose, plus differentiated immune cells. It is intended to enable rapid and durable engraftment, a crucial treatment milestone in which donor cells begin producing healthy cells.
The closest trial site to Stacey was at Duke University School of Medicine, some 500 miles away. Even so, she told her oncologist she was interested in enrolling.
“At the end of the day, you look at your options and it kind of makes it an easy decision,” she recalls. “I told myself: You do this, or you’re not going to be here anymore.”
On the day of her transplant, Stacey’s family was there to support her – her husband Rick, her mother and father, and her brother and his wife.
Today, eight years post-transplant, Stacey remains cancer-free. She is back to working full time and enjoying lifelong hobbies like gardening, sewing and enjoying the company of her beloved calico cat, Sophie. She and Rick also love to travel and have visited Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Canyon in recent years.
Looking back, Stacey says that her first cancer diagnosis was scary, as it is for any patient. Still, she says the experience – and the continued support of her family and friends throughout her journey – gave her the confidence that she could beat AML, too.
“It’s the unknown. In any part of our lives, whether you take a new job or move to a new city, doing something that you haven’t done before can be scary,” she says. “You just have to have faith and believe that you have good doctors who are going to guide you down the right path.”
This is one patient, and results may not be indicative as set forth above. Please note that omidubicel is investigational and safety and efficacy have not been established by any agency.