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Has cancer just been cured?

In this Jan. 12, 2013 photo provided by the family, Doug Olson, right, and his son, Jon, stand together after running a half-marathon in Orlando, Fla. As of December 2013, Doug Olson, 67, a scientist for a medical device maker, shows no sign of cancer since gene therapy in September 2010 for chronic lymphocytic leukemia he had had since 1996. "Within one month he was in complete remission. That was just completely unexpected. He probably had about 4 pounds of tumor that was eradicated in 30 days," said Porter, his doctor at U Penn. (AP Photo/Margit Olson)

In 1996 Doug Olson was diagnosed with cancer: a form of Leukemia.

“I was only 49 years old and I had a wife and four kids,” recounts Olson.

His doctor told him he would need a bone marrow transplant, which only had a 50-50 chance of succeeding.
But if he wanted to risk it, there was a new procedure developed by Dr. Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. June developed a way to re-engineer a patient’s own white cells to target a specific cancer not just once, but forever.

“So we give cells to the patient once and it lasts the rest of their lives,” explains June.

It had worked on a patient named Emma, but there was a risk, too.

“Emma had fevers of 106 degrees for a week. That’s a violent reaction that the immune system does to get rid of the tumors,” says June.

Doug Olson agreed to try the procedure. The re-engineered cells were infused into his compromised immune system. And he came down with what felt like the world’s worst case of the flu – to the point it was shutting down some of his organs. But then, after suffering for a week, his symptoms suddenly disappeared and his doctor walked in with the test results.

“He said, ‘Doug, we can’t find a cancer cell in your body. Your bone marrow is completely clean.'”

And now, a report released at a medical conference in New Orleans confirms the procedure has produced complete remission in a significant number of patients whose cancer was considered incurable – patients like Doug Olson, who didn’t waste any time.

“My wife picked me up from the hospital, we drove straight to the Indianapolis Boat Show and we bought a sailboat,” he says.

He has been cancer free for three years.

International clinical trials will start next year – and Dr. June says the procedure is so promising that instead of the 12 years it usually takes to get approval, he expects it to take three or four.

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