Posts tagged ‘leukemia’

When it all comes together… How the nurses of 7West put together a perfect wedding with some help from their friends

Wedding programs

The wedding was perfect—a beautiful bride in a white dress, gorgeous autumn flowers, an outpouring of love from friends and family. The only difference between this wedding and a fairy tale was its locale, which was the surgical waiting room on the first floor of Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

The November 10 wedding, for 19-year-old leukemia patient Courtney Sprenkle and her then-fiance Scott Shelly, was pulled together in about a week’s time. Courtney and Scott had originally planned to get married next year but, after already putting much of their lives on hold during her fight with cancer, she decided the time was right.

Courtney was originally diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia two years ago. During that time, she had three rounds of chemotherapy and two bone marrow transplants, all with Scott by her side. While each treatment was temporarily successful, the leukemia always returned a few months later. After her most recent relapse in October, she talked with her care team about her dream of a picture-perfect wedding.

“We said ‘if she wants it, we’ll make it happen,’” recalls Carol Magee, one of Courtney’s nurses on 7 West, Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. (more…)

December 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm 53 comments

The lifecycle of a cancer

Imagine if various types of cancer were caused by a common, though currently unknown, virus. The implications for treatment options and methods of prevention could be enormous. The discovery of infectious agents, such as the human papillomavirus as the root cause of cervical cancer, opens the door to the idea that other viruses might be at work in the genesis of cancer development.

This theory is about to be tested further by Thomas P. Loughran, M.D., and his colleagues at Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute. But Loughran is no stranger to being at the forefront of cancer research.

The LGL discovery

As outlined in this previous Penn State Medicine article, Loughran, who is a professor of medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and director of the Cancer Institute, is responsible for the discovery of large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia while he was an oncology fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington. He has spent most of his career researching the development of the disease and establishing a treatment protocol, which has allowed many patients to live healthier and more productive lives. In 2003, he started an LGL leukemia registry to keep track of patient outcomes.

One of the most challenging aspects of LGL leukemia is getting an accurate diagnosis. Patients often present with chronic symptoms, such as joint pain, fevers, and immune system problems that can be misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or aplastic anemia.

“The diagnosis is clouded by the fact that the symptoms are not obvious,” Loughran says. “Patients can have morbidity with tiredness, shortness of breath, pain, and swelling of the joints. Ten to 30 percent have classic RA. This is a chronic disease, though, with a major complication being infections.”

>> Hear from Dr. Loughran and a patient whom he treated for LGL leukemia in this edition of Penn State Hershey’s Sound Health podcast. <<

A diagnosis of LGL leukemia is not difficult to come by if medical professionals know what to look for, which is an increased number of LGL cells that can be seen on a blood smear. But because this can easily be overlooked in basic blood tests, it often takes a recurrence of symptoms before an accurate diagnosis of LGL leukemia is reached. (more…)

September 12, 2012 at 3:36 pm 4 comments

The finding — and following — of a killer (T-cell)

To really appreciate this story, we have to start at the end—simply put, there are people alive today because of a discovery made by an oncology fellow in the mid 1980s. And not just alive-these people are doing well, living healthy and full lives, sometimes symptom-free, because one doctor, Thomas P. Loughran Jr., M.D., professor of medicine and director, Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, noticed something that no one else did.

“He’s a super doctor,” says George Graham of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, one of Loughran’s patients who was unable to find appropriate treatment for large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia at other facilities.

Loughran came to discovering LGL through what might be considered standard detective work—he reviewed patient labs and blood smears and kept looking. During a rotation at the University of Washington, Loughran saw a patient who was referred to the chief resident with an unknown illness and a history of recurrent fevers and infections. Upon reviewing the patient’s blood smear, Loughran was the first to notice that the patient’s white cells were granular lymphocytes that were larger than they should be. After reviewing the previous five years of  records of the hematopathology laboratory directed by Marshall Kadin, M.D., he realized that other patients with similar histories also had the unusual white cell appearance. Loughran and Kadin went on to publish their discovery and subsequent research in the Annals of Internal Medicine. (more…)

July 1, 2010 at 8:00 pm 30 comments


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