Alberta firefighter’s leukemia in remission after last-ditch US trial therapy

EDMONTON — An Alberta firefighter is on the road to recovery after a last-ditch attempt to save his life through an experimental treatment appears to have worked.

Bo Cooper, a Fort McMurray firefighter, former mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter and husband, is battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).

His cancer had gone into remission twice before he was diagnosed with again in fall of 2014. After exhausting chemotherapy, and began looking into other options.

CAR T-Cell therapy offered at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland looked promising, and in January the 26-year-old was accepted into experimental treatment trial.

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READ MORE: Trial therapy from U.S. likely last option for Alberta firefighter battling leukemia

He flew to the United States to received his first treatment earlier this year, and more recently got a second infusion of CAR T-Cells.

On April 18 doctors checked his bone marrow and performed a lumbar puncture to see if there were any leukemic cells and active Car-22 cells in his bone marrow and central spinal fluid.

Two days later Cooper received the news he’d been hoping for: he was in remission.

“Bo’s flow cytometry results expressed that Bo’s Blast cells were less than 0.01%…. which simply translates that Bo Cooper is in complete remission! WOHOO!!!” Cooper’s wife Irish wrote on Facebook.

“His blast cells were at 0.006% and his Car-T cells were at 5%. The doctors were very happy with the results. With Bo having 5% Car T-cells, that may be enough to kill any remaining blast cells in his body. Car T-cells can remain in the body for many months. We need Bo’s blast cells to be at 0% in hopes for him to stay in remission for good. There is a possibility for a bone marrow transplant in the future,” it went on to read.

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Cooper is expected to fly home to Fort McMurray this week, and will have to return to Maryland in the middle of May for another biopsy.

“Discovery Channel has asked if they could fly back with us to document our journey back home and gain some insight into our great community,” Irish added.

CAR T-Cell therapy involves extracting cells from a patient and modifying those cells to better recognize and kill cancer. The modified cells are grown and multiplied before infusing them back into the patient.

READ MORE: Could this new therapy kill cancer? Canadian doc thinks so

While it’s still in the trial phase, the results have been promising, including for a young man in Montreal whose cancer was sent back into remission.

The U.S. Government does cover part of the cost of the experimental therapy, but it is still extremely expensive, costing between $500,000 and $900,000.

With help of his coworkers at the Fort McMurray Fire Department, the family has raised over $292,000 through a gofundme page.

Bo Cooper's helmet.
Bo Cooper during his MMA days.
26 year old Bo Cooper is fighting acute lymphoblastic leukemia for the third time. A costly trial therapy could be his last option for survival. Pat Carroll, Global News

The province said in December 2015 it would not cover the cost.

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In a statement, Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman said: “At this time, CART cell treatment is still experimental. It is not approved by Health Canada and there is not enough available evidence showing the treatment is safe or effective. As more evidence is gathered, we will review this treatment and other emerging treatments.”

With files from Sarah Offin and David Boushy, Global News

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