Riley patient to take part in national leukemia study

WHITE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) – A White County teen continues his journey battling leukemia.

Seventeen-year-old Wesley Corbin and his doctors prepared to begin treatment Monday morning at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

There, he’ll be one of about 30 children in the country, and the first patient from Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health in Indianapolis, to take part in a study doctors said could ultimately change the way all children are treated for leukemia.

“I wake up in the morning and ask, ‘what’s my purpose for the day? Even though it’s not good, how can I make the most out of it?” Corbin said.

Throughout his battle, Corbin has had endless counts of chemo therapy treatments. When chemo wasn’t enough, doctors performed a bone marrow transplant in spring of 2013 using his younger brother’s cells.

“He recovered very nicely,” his physician, Jodi Skiles said. “At about his one year anniversary from his transplant, he started having more symptoms.”

He relapsed and was re-diagnosed with leukemia in spring of 2014. As always, the teen stayed positive and said he knew this time around would be easier than the first time.

“A blessing in disguise is that when it did come back, we knew what medications I needed to take to help me be better off,” Corbin explained. “I haven’t been as sick as I have been.”

When Corbin’s body kept rejecting treatment, his doctors said they began thinking outside of the box.

“We knew that we needed to do something besides standard therapy because the regular therapy that he already had with chemo and the stem cell transplant had proven that it wasn’t enough,” Skiles explained.

Corbin’s team of doctors and nurses then contacted the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, also known as CHOP, to see if he was eligible for a study that could provide a better chance of healing.

“Basically what they have done there is they took his T-cells, which are a part of our immune system, and doctors there engineered them to recognize cancer cells,” Nurse Practitioner Paula Towell said.

“Basically you’re taking Wes’ own cells and making them into their own therapy so they can go after and kill any leukemia cells that are lingering in his body,” Skiles added.

“Kids that normal chemo therapy or a transplant doesn’t take care of the disease, then they could possibly receive this type of therapy and have their disease eradicated and be healed,” Towell explained. “So, this is huge. It has implications across the board for all kids with cancer.”

While Wes’ doctors have been more than helpful during this long journey, Corbin’s mother Heather said it’s their strong faith that holds the family together.

“We’ve prayed this whole time not to become bitter through this, but to come out better and use it for good,” Heather said. “The chance that he has to be used in this study and be used for the FDA to approve this treatment for thousands of kids to come is such a good experience and such a good opportunity.”

“I figure God has a plan for all of this,” Corbin said. “If He has a plan for it to come back in five years, then we’ll deal with it then. But, we’ll see what happens.”

Wesley began treatment for the study at CHOP Monday morning.

He and his mother Heather will be living there for nearly the next two months while doctors research the treatment’s effect on him and other children.

Skiles said this treatment has already cured two children from leukemia.

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