Will you help cancer patients find bone marrow donors? An update from David Willis


David WillisDavid Willis is a team captain of the Foundation Beyond Belief Light The Night team in Salt Lake City. Foundation Beyond Belief featured a video of David talking about a groundbreaking clinical research trial treating his leukemia. Unfortunately, his cancer has returned, but David has a message and call to action that he’s shared with us.

My name is David Willis and you may have heard about me participating in a new clinical trial for Leukemia. The CART-19 trial modified my body’s T-cells to attack my leukemia cells, which had a CD-19 protein marker on them. The treatment worked to the point where there were no more detectable cells in my bone marrow using the finest detection techniques available. This enabled me to recover physically for a few months and participate in a very successful Light The Night this year.

A few weeks later a bone marrow test revealed that there was leukemia in my bone marrow still, and that what was growing no longer had the CD-19 markers present. The CART-19 results are still very promising, but it may just be used as a pathway to a bone marrow transplant instead of as a cure in itself.

I am currently doing a round of chemo with the use of a drug called bortezomib to try and get the leukemia back in remission, and if that works I will be undergoing a bone marrow transplant in December.

I already have donors lined up, but there are many people who don’t. Registering for the national bone marrow registry is a great way to help provide lifesaving care and doesn’t require spending money. It only takes a simple cheek swab to sign up. Plus, what’s more humanistic than sharing your body?

For more information on how to become a marrow donor, go to Be The Match. You can register individually, or host a donor drive with your local team. Donors send in cheek swabs and may or may not be matched to a patient. Please familiarize yourself with the medical procedure of bone marrow donation or PBSC donation and the medical requirements before registering. Nothing could be more painful for a family than to have a potential match decide against donation at the eleventh hour.