IF SAMMY JO Wilkinson had a spirit animal, it would be Marty McFly. For the past four years, the 51 year-old California resident has been using stem cell therapy to beat her secondary progressive multiple sclerosis back into remission. Gone is the paralysis to the left side of her face and the numbness in her fingers. In February, she walked for the first time in years. “I’m living in a future that everybody will have some day,” says Wilkinson, who co-founded the patient’s rights group Patients for Stem Cells. “We’re trying to tell everybody the solution is here now, we just need a logical way to bring this to patients sooner rather than later.”
In recent years, scientists have been finding new ways to treat cancer outside of the chemotherapy and surgery combination. One technique, called immunotherapy, has showed promising results by reprogramming the patient’s immune system to attack tumors. Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle tested a version of immunotherapy on patients who had late-stage leukemia and lymphoma that had exhausted other treatment options—some weren’t expected to survive the experiment.