Hope, time and new options after CAR-T cell therapy for multiple myeloma

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
John Cadwallader shares his journey of hope and perseverance after CAR-T cell therapy.

By Alex Osiadacz

"Every day is a gift," says John Cadwallader, reflecting from his hospital room.

For 10 years, the Welsh-born farmer and craftsman has been fighting multiple myeloma, a cancer that affects plasma cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies.

In multiple myeloma, cancerous plasma cells accumulate in the bone marrow and crowd out healthy blood cells. Rather than produce helpful antibodies, the cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that can cause bone pain, fractures, kidney failure and other complications.

"I've struggled and carried on fighting this disease as well as trying to survive," John says.

Watch this video to hear John and his care team discuss his treatment:

He went through chemotherapy and stem cell transplants in the U.K., but his cancer was relentless. In 2021, after another failed treatment, John began looking for options in other countries.

Sikander Ailawadhi, M.D., a Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center hematologist and oncologist, kept coming up in his research. John took a chance and sent an email.

"Whatever it takes, if I have to come across the ocean, whenever they want me, I will do it," John says.

After crossing the Atlantic Ocean and meeting with a team at Mayo, John learned he was a candidate for chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy, or CAR-T cell therapy. The personalized treatment collects a patient's T cells, which normally help fight off infections, and genetically engineers them to target cancer cells. 

Florida became John's home for months as his cells were collected and prepared. In March 2022, his modified cells were infused back into his body. His cancer went into remission.

John Cadwallader underwent CAR-T cell therapy in March 2022.

"Being able to go back to his life in that state of remission, spending time with his sons, thinking of going back to work if he wanted to, thinking of living his life — I think that was the No. 1 thing that it did for him," says Dr. Ailawadhi.

John spent months at home in remission, but his cancer was detected during a follow-up appointment. However, his story doesn't end there.

While John had been undergoing CAR-T and, later, in remission, new clinical trials became available in the U.K. He started care locally and is monitored closely by his Mayo team from Florida and London. John hopes to inspire others to keep searching for treatments and put up the best fight against their disease.

"I'm just looking to be happy," says John. "And basically, try and help somebody else. Because that gives me power to be able to see somebody benefit the way that I have."

Learn more

Learn more about multiple myeloma and find a clinical trial at Mayo Clinic.

Learn more about CAR-T cell therapy and find a clinical trial at Mayo Clinic.

Join the Blood Cancers and Disorders Support Group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online community moderated by Mayo Clinic for patients and caregivers.

Also, read these articles:

A version of this article was originally published on the Mayo Clinic News Network.