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.