Patient with rare form of leukemia has fighting chance, but is in need of stem-cell donor

Patient with rare form of Leukemia has a fighting chance to beat it, but needs a stem-cell donor to finish the job

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A patient at Atrium Health's Levine Cancer Institute has a rare form of leukemia, but he has a good chance at beating it, doctors say. Unfortunately, beating this aggressive form of cancer is only half the battle.

Bruno Marcoccia noticed something was off about his health in June.

"I walked and it was about a two-mile walk, and I found myself very very tired, and when I walked back I could barely get home," Marcoccia explained.

The next day he said he started getting fevers. He went to urgent care and he says irregularities in his blood were found.

"The more and more we learned, the more grave it got," Marcoccia said.

Marcoccia was diagnosed with Early T-cell Precursor (ETP) Acute Lymphoblas Leukemia (ALL). A rare and aggressive form of leukemia.

"Probably only 200 to 300 cases have been reported previously, so there is not a standard of care that tells us what we do next," Dr. Greg Knight, MD of the leukemia Unit at Levine Cancer Institute said.

For about a month he went through a standard and aggressive chemotherapy process, but it wasn't enough. Now doctors at Levine Cancer Institute are trying a cutting-edge technique that few in the U.S. have tried before, they say.

"We're hoping that in the next couple of months we will see this disease start to go away, not be able to detect in his bone marrow or blood," Knight said.

Once he goes into remission, Knight says he needs a stem cell or bone marrow transplant immediately.

"To create this whole new immune system for our patient," Knight said.

Doctors search the international bone marrow registry and found two people in the world who are potential matches. However, it's unclear if the potential matches will follow through with donating.

Knight says it's not uncommon for there to only be few or no matches for Leukemia patients. Partially because there just aren't enough people registered. He says there is a one in four chance a person's sibling matches with them. Statistics are even lower for Hispanic and African American patients.

Marcoccia's wife, Elizabeth became a donor when she found out how much of a need there was for donors.

"Maybe somebody's child might need me, and I'm hoping the same thing happens to him," Elizabeth said.

She is hoping to get more people registered not only for her husband's sake but for the thousands of other patients in need, too.

For more information about becoming a donor, click here.

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