Redmond girl, family in Pa. hoping for leukemia cure
New experimental procedure infects cells with HIV
Avrey Walker is a 9-year-old Redmond girl, battling leukemia for her third time. On Friday, her father talked about the experimental procedure she's undergoing in Philadelphia, where a disabled HIV virus is being used try to destroy the cancer cells.
"We're blessed to be here, and we're happy that they have this new technology, that's going to save my girl's life," Aaron Walker said.
Avrey is recovering at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. After her second relapse with cancer, the Walker family flew across the country for something only five other children have tried.
"She's doing pretty good considering the circumstances," Aaron said. "She's had some rough treatments here, with a line placed in her jugular vein yesterday, and they've pulled blood out today. So it's pretty rough on a little girl, but we need to do it and we're doing what we have to do."
In the procedure that took place Thursday, doctors collected Avrey's T-cells. Doctors plan to infect her healthy cells with the HIV virus to help kill the cancer. The virus has been engineered to where it can't cause disease any more, but it can still attack leukemia cells.
"We're going to wait for our cells to be engineered here, then we're going to return," said Aaron. "They will to use those cells to attack Avrey's cancer, hopefully kill it for good."
It will take about five weeks to engineer the cells, so in the meantime, Avrey will undergo more chemotherapy to keep the cancer at bay. The family will return to Philadelphia for about a month, while Avrey undergoes the last phase of the process.
For some children, the procedure completely cured the cancer. The Walker family hopes and prays for the same outcome.
"She knows we're here to fight, and we're here to win this thing, so she's on board with that for sure," Aaron said.
Because this experimental procedure is so new, it will not be covered by the family's insurance. A bingo night is planned at 5 pm on Thursday, Feb. 7 at Cascade Lakes Brewing Co. in Redmond.
A Wells Fargo account has also been set up under "Aaron and Avrey. The family has expressed their gratitude for everyone in Central Oregon, who has been supporting them in this time of need.
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