Kelly Hale didn’t have time to be sick. With four active teenagers and a business to run, she was grateful that within three months of being diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, she was able to get back to the activities she loves.
The 52-year-old entrepreneur, who owns Multitudes, a women’s clothing and jewelry boutique, and has a passion for antiques and home renovation, knew it was a “tell-tale sign” when she didn’t feel well enough to continue renovations of the 100-year-old home she and her family are restoring.
In fact, Hale hadn’t been feeling well for nearly two years before learning in early October 2017 she had the slow-growing B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma. During that time, she experienced low energy, thirst, itching and night sweats. A routine mammogram two months earlier revealed enlarged lymph nodes, and a biopsy was taken. The finding was follicular lymphoma.
Hale knew immediately where she would go for treatment.
“My father had been treated successfully for esophageal cancer at MD Anderson and I was so impressed with the treatment and care,” she says. “I put calls into three cancer facilities, but MD Anderson responded immediately.”
“I didn’t want to look sick. I didn’t want to lose my hair,” she says. “I opted for the study, although some family members were saying ‘hold on a minute.’”
Combination drug trial
She joined an MD Anderson clinical trial led by Loretta Nastoupil, M.D., assistant professor of Lymphoma & Myeloma. The Phase II clinical trial included treatment with a combination therapy of obinutuzumab and lenalidomide for follicular lymphoma patients who haven’t yet been treated for the disease. The four-year study, which aims to enroll 90 patients, had started just six months before Hale entered.
Obinutuzumab is an FDA-approved monoclonal antibody that binds to a protein on cancer-causing B lymphocytes or B cells, triggering an attack by the patient’s immune system that kills the B cells.
The FDA-approved immunotherapy agent lenalidomide causes cancer cell death and has been used successfully to treat inflammatory disorders and cancers such as multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndromes.
“I had a textbook response with very few side effects,” says Hale, who lives in Waxahachie, about 30 miles south of Dallas. “Since then, I have had three PET scans and continue to be in remission. I’ll soon cut back my visits for infusions at MD Anderson to every two months.”