Jeremiah “L.J.” Graham
Jeremiah “L.J.” Graham was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when he was five years old. Following multiple relapses, L.J.’s remaining treatment options were few. In March 2015, L.J. was accepted into the Phase I CAR-T cell clinical trial at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Two and a half years later, L.J. remains cancer free!
In their own words, L.J.’s parents Jennifer and Jeremiah Graham share the story of their son’s treatment, relapses and life after CAR-T cell therapy.
In February of 2011, at age 5, L.J. was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and immediately began treatment with chemotherapy. He responded very well to frontline treatment and entered the maintenance phase where he visited our local hospital once a month and took oral chemotherapy at home daily.
In June 2013, while he was still in maintenance, he began having severe headaches. After ruling out other possible causes, the doctors at our local hospital checked his spinal fluid and discovered that it contained leukemia cells. His bone marrow was then tested again and more leukemia was found there.
L.J. underwent intense chemotherapy in the hospital and radiation to his brain to clear the leukemia as much as possible before doing a bone marrow transplant. In September 2013, L.J. was ready for transplant. He underwent total body radiation to attempt to destroy his bone marrow completely and was then transplanted with bone marrow from his little brother, who was 6-years old at the time. L.J. responded very well and went home 21 days after he was transplanted.
Six months after his transplant, when he had just been weaned off of his anti-rejection medications, L.J. began having severe headaches again. We knew before he even had his lumbar puncture to check his spinal fluid that his cancer was back. The news was grim and options were few. Our hope rested in CAR-T therapy, that was still in Phase 1 trials when L.J. was accepted.
In March 2015, at 9-years old, L.J. received his engineered T-cells at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Over 2.5 years later, he is still cancer-free. CAR-T gave us hope. With each relapse, L.J.’s chances of survival dropped significantly, and we weren’t sure how much time we had left with our little boy.
L.J. is now 12-years old, and unless you knew him before, you would never even imagine how sick he was and how hard he had to fight to survive. CAR-T has given our family the biggest gift that could never be repaid, they have given our son a chance at a normal, long, and happy life. For that, we are forever grateful.
We’re making it our mission to change the standard treatment narrative for all kids fighting childhood cancer. We want a different journey for these heroes – one with less toxic treatments and without fear of relapse or loss of life. We need to write a better story for children fighting cancer.