Fort McMurray firefighter dies after experimental cancer treatment fails

An Alberta man has lost his battle with cancer after a last-ditch attempt to save his life through an experimental treatment failed to work.

Bo Cooper, a Fort McMurray firefighter, former mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter and husband, had been battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) for several years when he passed away last week.

“This is the worst heartbreak I have ever felt. My mind is not clear right now, it’s like I’m walking in a fog of emptiness,” his wife Irish wrote Sunday in a Facebook post accompanied by a photo of the couple.

“He was holding on for so long, but he suffered too much. I miss him more than anything in this world, but he is no longer in pain.”

Cooper’s cancer had gone into remission twice before he was diagnosed with it again in fall of 2014. After exhausting chemotherapy, the couple began looking into other options.

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

He was accepted into an experimental CAR T-Cell therapy treatment trial at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland. Cooper underwent his first round of treatment back in January, and a second one in the spring.

In April, there was a positive development: Cooper’s blast cells were less than 0.01 per cent, meaning he was technically in remission.

However, the good news was short-lived, as an update in September revealed the experimental treatment had been unsuccessful.

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

CAR T-Cell therapy involved 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.

Bo Cooper's helmet.
Bo Cooper during his MMA days.


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

The province said in December 2015 it would not cover the cost of Cooper’s treatment. With help of his coworkers at the Fort McMurray Fire Department, the family raised over $308,000 through a gofundme page.

Irish Cooper wrote that Monday would have been their anniversary.

“Thank you baby for seven years of pure joy and unconditional love. I will never forget you.”


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