CAR & Driver

The wheels have been turning on the “CAR” T-cell clinical trial. Sherri is now enrolled in the trial, and has started preparations.  But let’s not put the CAR-T before the horse; here’s how it works! As described by Dr. Beatty at UPenn: “A Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) is an antibody engineered to recognize a specific protein on a cancer cell. When a CAR is inserted into a specific white blood cell called a T cell, binding of the CAR to the specific protein on a cancer cell will activate the T cell to kill the cancer cell.”

In practice, this is done as part of the multi-step process illustrated below. Sherri completed Step 1 on Tue, Aug 5 at UPenn. The process is called apheresis, whereby a whirring gizmo methodically sucks blood from your neck for a couple of hours. Granted, you get most of it back, minus some T-cells. The T-cells are engineered, then multiplied in the lab. Assuming this all works as advertised, next month Sherri will start to get her newly trained and cloned T-cell army.

Like Star Wars Episode II, starring Count Dracula.

Killer T

Source: Activating the Immune System in Pancreatic Cancer, Gregory Beatty, MD, PhD, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, March 2, 2012. Click the diagram to see the rest of the presentation.

While we wait for the T-cell genetic engineering to take place, Sherri is staying on the FOLFIRI chemotherapy regimen. It will be a few more weeks before we get a new CT scan to see how everything looks. Until then, we will stay the course, keep our fingers crossed, and follow through with these great opportunities being put before us.


In other news, the stars aligned for us to take a summer trip recently, highlighted by visits to NYC, Iceland, Oxford, London, Cumbria (UK’s Lake District), and Edinburgh. Fueled by the energy of her first trip to UK, Sherri rocked this 2000′ ascent of the Old Man of Coniston, overlooking Coniston Water in one direction and the Irish Sea in another. A bit of pub trivia: there is actually only one official lake in the Lake District (by their definition). The rest of them, including Coniston Water – which is 5 miles long – are apparently too small to qualify! They are reminiscent of the Finger Lakes in NY (or is it the other way around?)

Sherri on Coniston

Climbing the “Old Man” of Coniston.

So overall, Sherri is grateful to be in a place where she could take this summer trip, fighting her way through the nasty business of chemotherapy, and excited by the possibilities of the newly emerging CAR T-cell science. Me? I agree this is a great opportunity, but then I’ve always been a CAR guy.