At age five, Sam was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After near a decade of enduring multiple relapses, he was able to enroll in the CAR T-cell therapy clinical trial at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Today, Sam celebrates 7 years of remission!
In their own words, Sam’s family shares the story of their son’s diagnosis, relapses, the journey to CAR T-cell therapy — and beyond!
Sam was just five-years-old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), which at that time was one of the most curable forms of childhood cancer.
After Sam endured three years of chemotherapy, he hoped that cancer would be forever behind him. Little did he know that throughout his elementary, middle school, and high school years, he would relapse several more times and need to face countless rounds of chemo, spinal taps, radiation, and even a difficult bone marrow transplant. Sadly, in 2015, when Sam was 15, the cancer returned for the 5th time and Sam and his family prepared for the worst.
Fortunately, Sam qualified for a brand new clinical trial that used a groundbreaking CAR T-cell immunotherapy to treat recurrent leukemia. Spending 6 weeks at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), Sam received a dose of genetically engineered T-cells that were programmed to find and destroy the cancer cells.
Amazingly, Sam went into full remission and has just celebrated 6 years of being cancer-free!
Throughout his many years of fighting cancer, Sam’s love of sports was the one constant in his life. A lifelong Chicagoan, Sam loves watching his favorite local teams play games on TV. He memorized statistics and organized fantasy teams for his friends as a distraction during his difficult treatments. Sam and his family have tried to attend as many sports events as possible over the years, to create as many positive memories despite all of the challenges he faced.
After graduating from high school in 2017, Sam entered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and continued to pursue his love of sports as a Recreation, Sports & Tourism major. He worked at various Illinois athletic events during his college years as part of the college sports marketing team. Sam graduated in 2021, with the highest honors, and was a Bronze Tablet scholar. Now pursuing his master’s degree online at UIUC, Sam is preparing for a career in sports or recreation management.
Over the years Sam has taken many opportunities to share his story as an inspiration for others, speaking at several Make-A-Wish events as well as appearing in University of Chicago marketing campaigns, to publicize their newly FDA-approved CAR T-cell treatment. Sam was the first young adult in Illinois to receive CAR t-call therapy, and doctors are now talking about this amazing treatment as being a possible cure for recurrent leukemia!
We receive messages from families around the world with experiences similar to Sam’s family. We do whatever we can to be a resource for these families to help them get enrolled in a clinical trial or find an eligible CAR T-cell therapy treatment center.
To search for available CAR T immunotherapy clinical trials, visit our Pediatric Cancer Clinical Trial Finder. To help us in our mission to give children around the world the opportunity to Activate the Cure to their cancer, Get Involved or Donate now.