Helping cancer patients navigate CAR T cell therapy
Jeremiah Bergeron pays close attention to detail. As a nurse caring for hospital patients receiving CAR T cell therapy, Bergeron monitors each of his lymphoma and myeloma patients for subtle changes that could signal serious side effects.
Since MD Anderson launched its first CAR T clinical trial in 2015, this revolutionary type of immunotherapy has shown great success. In some cases, it has eliminated all signs of disease, essentially curing patients’ cancer. But it also has unique side effects, which can be life-threatening if not managed well. Bergeron has learned to identify and intervene early to help patients reverse these effects.
“It’s exciting and scary at the same time,” he explains. “Everyone responds to CAR T cell therapy differently – while some have no side effects, others may experience neurotoxicity or cytokine release syndrome, which can be as mild as a low-grade fever or as severe as multi-organ failure. Frequent checks of vital signs and neurological assessments are key to keeping patients safe.”
Finding meaning in connections with patients undergoing CAR T cell therapy
Bergeron describes his role as helping patients weather the storm of CAR T cell therapy, and he says it’s all worth it when patients see the remarkable outcomes. He especially enjoys hearing each patient’s unique story, as some have just been diagnosed with cancer and others are trying CAR T cell therapy because all other treatments have failed.
“I learn so much from our patients. They all have different life experiences and goals,” he says. “Some patients are looking forward to meeting their first grandchild, while others are just starting their families. Their perseverance inspires me and gives my work meaning.”
A CAR T cell therapy milestone
Bergeron also finds meaning in the role he’s played in helping the institution reach a historic milestone in August 2022, when MD Anderson treated our 1,000th patient with immune effector cell therapy, which includes CAR T, CAR natural killer and T cell receptor cell therapies. Bergeron is proud to work with a multidisciplinary team to care for about 100 of those patients, ensuring patient safety and optimum outcomes.
“The amount of teamwork and collaboration is unique to MD Anderson and helps us provide the safest care possible,” he says. “I became a nurse to help people, and I’m honored to be part of a team that’s transforming cancer care and giving hope to people around the world.”