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Interview with soap star and stem cell transplant recipient Anthony Herrera

Posted Jun 10 2009 6:46pm

I am honored to have been granted an interview with As The World Turns  soap star and stem cell transplant recipient,  Anthony Herrera. Anthony and I first corresponded last year in regards to my upcoming book of memoirs, Survival Mode, based on my husband's battle with  mantle cell lymphoma. Anthony had also written a book,  The Cancer War, about his experience with the same cancer and kindly offered me the benefit of his insight.

Anthony was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma, the rarest and deadliest form of  Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, in 1997 at New York University Hospital and was told, "There is nothing we can do. You are going to die." He then went to  Memorial Sloan-Kettering  and received  chemotherapy,  total body irradiation, and an  autologous stem cell transplant (using his own stem cells). After relapsing in 1998, he received an  allogenic stem cell transplant  (also known as a bone marrow transplant) using stem cells donated by his brother, John. He required a boost of donor lymphocyte infusion  after transplantation, and has been in remission since 2000.

Anthony graciously granted me an interview this week. Please read more about this inspirational man, who is alive today because of the miracle of stem cell transplants.

CD:  How did your allogenic stem cell transplant in 1999 make medical history?

AH:  What is important to know is that chemotherapy, radiation, and a transplant using my own stem cells failed. In 1999, my battle with mantle cell lymphoma became a pioneer case. Because of my new immune system ( made possible by the allogenic stem cell transplant ), there has been NO EVIDENCE OF DISEASE in my body for nine years.

Perhaps Dr. Giralt phrases it better:

" Herrera is one of the pioneer cases of mantle cell lymphoma - usually a lethal diagnosis. Despite having failed multiple other therapies, his case provided proof of principal that donor cells could induce long-term remission."

-Sergio Giralt, M.D. - Professor of Medicine, MD Anderson Cancer Center

CD:   What was your brother's experience with the stem cell donation process?

AH:   Donating stem cells is only slightly more uncomfortable than giving blood. The tricky part is the drug you have to inject that causes the bone marrow to overproduce, therefore, putting baby stem cells into the blood. This can cause some bone pain, unless the dosage is carefully administered.

CD:   After your transplant, you required a boost of donor lymphocyte infusion. What did this process entail for you and John?

AH:   This is the same process as donating stem cells for the transplant.

CD:   In 2005, you testified for Senator Arlen Specter on the importance of the Federal Government's support of stem cell research. As an advocate for this cause, can you tell us how stem cell research has touched your life?

AH:   In a few words - my life is better now, than it has ever been. Bishop Desmond Tutu said, "I can honestly thank God for my cancer."

CD:  What would you like the public to know about the importance of volunteering to be listed on the marrow registry?

AH:  There has been tremendous progress made in the last couple of years with the success of donor transplant. You may save someone's life!

You can watch Anthony Herrera on As The World Turns when his villainous character, James Stenbeck, returns to the show once again this summer.

Source: 20 May 2009

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