ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)-- My half-hour special, "Beacons of Hope" profiles four patients who have beat long odds in their battles against cancer, cystic fibrosis and a rare genetic disorder that interferes with bone development. It is often fatal for newborns born with a severe form and disabling for kids with milder cases.
Ralph DeHater of Southeast Missouri was diagnosed with stage-4 kidney cancer. Doctors at Saont Louis University Cancer Center decided to treat the 57 year old with High Dose Interleukin-2 or HDIL-2.
SLU is the only medical center in Missouri that uses the drug for some advanced cancers. The drug boosts the patient's immune system to attack the cancer. It works in only about 8 percent of stage-4 cancers, but it worked for Ralph. He is now disease-free. He calls it a miracle.
Julia McDougell was diagnosed with melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer. It spread to her lungs and liver. After interferon treatments didn't work, she also underwent treatment with High Dose Interleukin-2 at Saint Louis University. The therapy can be rough on your skin and makes you so cold you shake violently. But it was worth it. She is now disease free and says this experience changed her life.
Jeramy Wilson was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis when he was three. This genetic disorder clogs the lungs, causing lung infections. It also obstructs the pancreas and causes premature death. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation helped fund the development of a new drug called Kalydeco, which has helped Jeramy immensely. He plans to marry in June of 2012.
Shawn Bennett of Florida was born with a genetic disorder called Hypophosphatasia. It interferes with bone development and is often fatal in newborns with severe forms and disabling for older kids with milder forms. Shawn didn't walk until he was 3-1/2 and used a walker until he was 4-1/2. Part of a study at Shriner's Hospital for Children in St. Louis, Shawn started receiving an experimental enzyme replacement drug two years ago. Now eight, he runs and jumps and plays baseball, basketball and soccer.
Truly inspiring stories of courageous patients and families, girded with strong faith and dedicated doctors and researchers, all working together to stare down some devastating diseases.
Interleukin-2 - This drug is used treat skin melanomas and kidney cancer. It is also being studied for use against some leukemias, lymphomas, and other cancers, as well as some other diseases.
Afotase Alfa - This drug offers hope for rare, deadly disorder called HPP. It treats a rare genetic enzyme deficiency that causes bone softening and muscle weakness and can lead to severe lung problems and damage to other vital organs. It affects about 1 in 100,000 newborns worldwide. About half of infants with a severe form of the disease do not survive beyond one year.