Wisconsin cancer patient becomes first in world to undergo breakthrough treatment

The former patient is now in remission
Posted at 7:46 PM, Feb 01, 2018

A Wisconsin man who was once told his cancer was incurable is now in remission after becoming the first person in the world to undergo a breakthrough treatment at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Seven years ago, life as Bret Carroll knew it got flipped upside down when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.

"That's not a good realization in your life, I was upset, I was angry," Carroll said.

The 52-year-old was told his form of cancer that started in his blood cells was incurable. Doctors informed Carroll he likely only had a couple years left to live.


"My wife, she cried about this, upset about all the things potentially we still wanted to do together that may not be out there," he said.

Last fall, Carroll's immune system began to fail.

"I mean, the kind of rough shape that you end up in the emergency room and in the hospital and these people trying to keep me alive long enough to make it to the CAR-T reinfusion," he said. 

He was given several options, but thanks to the purchase of a cutting-edge cancer treatment that fills a lab at the Medical College of Wisconsin, there was one form of treatment that gave him hope.

"This one had potential to be really that permanent cure," he said.

Carroll signed up for a CAR-T cell immunotherapy which took some of his blood.

Cancer doctors trained specific cells to target cancer in a lab then put them back in his body.

"They basically go on a search and destroy mission," said Bryon Johnson, PhD at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

"Once I got the cells re-infused, within a couple days the crisis was over," said Carroll. "There was no detectable cancer. I was in remission."

While Carroll is regaining his strength, he's cautiously optimistic his battle with cancer is over for good.

"They've given me five years already," said Carroll.

Two other cancer patients are now trying this form of treatment at the Medical College of Wisconsin.