Houston, TX

MD Anderson helps recover patient with hairy cell leukemia

Jackson Cutler

MD Anderson Cancer CenterWikimedia Commons

HOUSTON, TX — Many patients receiving cancer treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center have given positive testimonies about their illness. One of them is Fred Hileman, Ph.D. diagnosed with hairy cell leukemia.

In 2015, two different oncologists from Alabama and Florida, respectively, stated that Hileman's life was only a few weeks away.

He went to another doctor who prescribed a chemotherapy drug called cladribine to treat the increase in white blood cells caused by hairy cell leukemia which did not produce positive results. He also took a type of targeted therapy called rituxan prescribed by a leukemia specialist in Alabama, but again it didn't work.

His wife, Debbie, rushed him to the hospital in Pensacola, Florida when she noticed that Hileman was unable to speak after taking a nap. From the MRI test, many lesions were found in his brain, and according to the biopsy results, it was caused by one of the rarest leukemia types. With the help of steroids, he finally regained consciousness after being in a coma for a week or so.

During his first appointment at MD Anderson, he met with Dr. Kantarjian who asked him to spend a month in isolation and took a pair of strong chemotherapy drugs — fludarabine and cytarabine — to halt or decelerate cancer's growth.

After the procedure, Hileman was given a new targeted therapy drug called ibrutinib. He took those three drugs a day, and now he only takes two drugs.

By the end of 2017, his brain lesions were no longer found and there has been no evidence of leukemia since then. Hileman considers himself lucky as previously in 1996 he survived after having surgery for adenoid cystic carcinoma of the parotid gland in Alabama.

Five years after suffering from leukemia, he concurred the cancer and felt really grateful to MD Anderson and Dr. Kantarjian who have helped restore his condition.

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