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Treatment for leukemia takes big jump forward with help from St. Louis boy

When chemotherapy didn't work for Tyler Jones, he needed a 'miracle.'
Credit: Clancy, Samuel

ST. LOUIS — Some people always find the 'good' in good morning.

"We're very blessed," said Maria Jones.

Maria and her 17-year-old son Tyler were taking advantage of a beautiful day in Forest Park.

It's always nice to face the sunshine knowing the shadows are behind you.

When Tyler was just 6 years old, he had a flu that would not go away. It turned out it wasn't the flu at all. Tests at St. Louis Children's Hospital revealed Tyler had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

"Tyler came in very sick. His leukemia cells were well over half a million in his bloodstream," Dr. Robert Hayashi said.

"It takes your breath away," Maria said of the diagnosis.

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Making matters worse, after the first round of chemotherapy, there was virtually no improvement.

"It was just a really scary experience," Tyler said.

With prospects grim, Tyler's parents agreed to enroll him in a clinical trial to see if adding a new drug to the chemo might improve his chances.

"What have you got to lose?" asked Maria.

At the time, the drug Nelarabine, which had shown a lot of promise, had never been used in newly diagnosed patients but Tyler needed a miracle.

"If this drug hadn't been available, he probably wouldn't be with us today," Dr. Hayashi said.

If you've ever wondered what freedom sounds like, for Tyler it was the ringing of the survivor bell, marking the beginning of a cancer-free life.

"It was just a good feeling to know that I was leaving the hospital," said Tyler.

Tyler still sees Dr. Hayashi once a year, but his long and difficult path has now paved the way for thousands of other patients with leukemia.

"Obviously, we are very pleased with this result and we can now say this has been a major advance in the treatment of leukemia," Dr. Hayashi said.

Tyler and his family will always be grateful for this new way to treat leukemia. Being first gave him a second chance.

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