11 Jun 2019

Melvyn’s story

In 2012 Melvyn, a bone marrow transplant patient, suffering from an aggressive form of graft-versus-host-disease was given pioneering, life-saving treatment, Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy, at The Catherine Lewis Centre.

“I was first diagnosed with leukaemia in July 1998 after complaining of fatigue to my local GP,” says Melvyn.

“I didn’t know what the disease was at the time but my wife Pauline took the news very badly as she understood what the outcome could be.

“I wanted to see my children graduate – my daughter was 13 and my son 15 – so I was determined to fight it and stay positive. It was a huge shock for my family.”

Melvyn successfully underwent a stem cell transplant just 10 weeks later, and although he responded well initially he started to experience a serious complication called graft-versus-host-disease (GvHD), where the newly transplanted cells attack the recipient’s body.

“I remember reaching out to turn the bedside lamp off and noticing for the first time hard lumps on my arms. By the time I went to clinic, it had spread all over my body from my neck to my ankles and my skin had become so thick that I found it hard to move.

“I saw the rheumatologist and started a new steroid drug regime, it worked well for around two years, but the risk of infection and relapse were so high that I stopped taking them.

“After a couple of years GvHD deteriorated; but thankfully, because of research funded by Leukaemia UK, I was given the opportunity to trial a new treatment called Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapy, which has significantly improved my life.”

Professor Francesco Dazzi

“Leukaemia UK has enabled us to initiate this treatment and gather preliminary evidence with some extraordinary results. In Melvyn’s case, we isolated cells taken from his daughter, prepared them here at The Catherine Lewis Centre and, when they were ready, we infused them.

“We have seen a 50% improvement in Melvyn’s condition and I am thrilled that we have been able to improve both his outlook and quality of life.”

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