Autologous stem cell transplant survivor finds hope after third lymphoma diagnosis

In the summer of 2013, Debbie Felix-Dejean was facing her third round of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and she was not optimistic. The Caribbean expatriate had received her first Hodgkin’s lymphoma diagnosis in 2004, while living in South Africa. Her second diagnosis came in 2010, while Debbie was living in Florida. Three years later, she found a lump in her left armpit. “Usually, Hodgkin’s lymphoma is considered the best type of cancer to have because it’s easy to treat and has a fantastic cure rate,” Debbie says. “But I had already been through this two times before, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe this is it.’” Clinical trial offers new chemotherapy combination Fearing a grim prognosis, Debbie waited a few months before seeking treatment. But at a friend’s insistence, she finally made an appointment at MD Anderson. Here, Debbie saw Jason Westin, M.D. He confirmed her self-diagnosis, but he also gave her hope. Debbie learned that she was eligible for a Phase II clinical trial under Yago Nieto, M.D., Ph.D. The clinical trial involved a new combination of high-dose chemotherapy drugs (gemcitabine, busulfan and melphalan), in preparation for an autologous stem cell transplant. “The drugs were not new, but the combination was,” she says. “So when I was given the option for a clinical trial, I took it.” Debbie began the clinical trial in Sept. 2013. Her autologous stem cell transplant took place in Dec. 2013. “Christmas Day was the last day of my infusion,” she says. “It was the best gift ever.” Extraordinary complication delays stem cell transplant recovery Debbie initially did so well after the stem cell transplant that she...