Remission after allogeneic stem cell transplant and clinical trials

When Sandra Hurley was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) back in 1997, an Ohio-based oncologist gave her two to four more years to live and bluntly told her to get her affairs in order. “After I went through the shock, tears and ‘woe is me’ stages, I just thought, ‘This is unacceptable,’” Sandra says. “I was only in my mid-40s at the time. And my kids had just graduated from high school and entered military academies, so I still had lots to do.” Thankfully, Sandra didn’t take that doctor’s advice. Instead, she came to MD Anderson for a second opinion – and ultimately a successful allogeneic stem cell transplant.  Identifying Sandra’s stem cell donor During her first visit to MD Anderson, Sandra met with Michael Keating, M.D. “Dr. Keating was just so positive,” Sandra recalls. “He said, ‘That’s a bunch of bunk. You’re not going to die.’ He told me I was going to have to go through some bad times, but that there were so many new treatments we could try. And we’d just keep working at it.” Under Keating’s care, Sandra participated in a number of clinical trials involving different chemotherapy combinations. After more than a decade of those treatments, she received an allogeneic stem cell transplant. But locating a good bone marrow donor was a challenge. “I’ve only got one sister, and neither she nor my kids were a match,” Sandra says. “So, the doctors conducted a worldwide search. It turned out a 26-year-old male was almost a perfect match. And he was willing to do this for a complete stranger, which I’m just in...