Las Vegas illusionist and his wife Shaunyl Benson have shared their son, Johnny Crisstopher’s battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Now, they’re celebrating a victory. “Bloods were amazing today! So stoked his bone marrow is working well on its own.” Benson writes on Instagram. “Counting down the days until we are free of his tube. 21 days left.”
Immunotherapy For Pediatric Leukemia
Immunotherapy drugs harness a patient’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Several types have recently been approved for use against childhood leukemia, according to the American Cancer Society.Read More
One such drug, blinatumomab (trade name Blincyto) is used to treat some types of B-cell ALL, typically after chemotherapy, according to the American Cancer Society. By binding to 2 proteins — CD19 and CD3 — the drug brings cancer cells and immune cells together, allowing the immune system to attack the cancer cells.
“The best part of immune therapy (Blincyto), is Johnny gets to be at home for the dose,” Benson writes after their most recent hospital stay. “We only need to go into clinic once a week for dressing change, blood draw and port re-access.”
“The hospital has been a part of our life for almost 5 years now,” Benson says. “It’s not the funnest place to be in but cancer kids are still kids,” Benson shared. “They are the brightest beams of light.”
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What is Blincyto? It’s an immune therapy drug, that has recently been approved to use in low risk relapse patients of b-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. It’s works by igniting the body’s t-cells to attack the b-cells. The only bad thing about this, is it can attack all of the body’s b-cells and leave the patient with none. That means no cells to fight infections, like the common cold or flu. That’s when they infuse with IVIG immunoglobulin. It’s still a new drug but these are the kind of studies we need to fund and make these treatments frontline. This drug is less toxic for patients than chemotherapy and can also bridge the way for patients waiting for a bone marrow donor, buying them more time. Johnny Crisstopher is doing a mixture of chemo and immune therapy to give his body a break. After being on chemo for 3 years straight, we often worry about how much more his little body can take. Blincyto has been a wonderful gift. It’s allowed us to spend more time at home instead of being stuck for months in hospital. The dose is a continuous drip 24/7 for 28 days. Johnny wears a backpack which holds his pump and medicine bag. He can’t play wrestling or go swimming BUT he gets to be at home and that is a privilege ♥️🙏🏼 #childhoodcancer #blinatumomab #blincyto #relapse #leukemiawarrior
“A Wonderful Gift”
“It’s still a new drug, but there are all kinds of studies we need to fund and make these treatment frontline,” Benson shared on Instagram (above). “This drug is less toxic for patients than chemotherapy and can also bridge the way for patients waiting for a bone marrow donor, buying them more time.”
“Johnny Crisstopher is doing a mixture of chemo and immune therapy to give his body a break. After being on chemo for 3 years straight, we often worry about how much more his little body can take,” Benson said, adding: “Blincyto has been a wonderful gift.”
“The dose is a continuous drip 24/7 for 28 days,” Benson explained. “Johnny wears a backpack which holds his pump and medicine bag. He can’t play or wrestle or go swimming BUT he gets to be at home and that is a privilege.”
Johnny Crisstopher’s Cancer Journey
Johnny was under two years old when he was first diagnosed with ALL, a cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, in October 2015. Signs of childhood ALL include fever and bruising. The disease is detected with blood and bone marrow tests.
After three years of treatment, his cancer went into remission. Then in December 2019, Angel told TMZ in that his son, then 5, had relapsed and would again begin chemotherapy treatments.
Leukemia is the most common type of cancer diagnosed in young children and teens, and about three out of four leukemias diagnosed in children are ALL, according to the American Cancer Society.
The Impact of Childhood Cancer
“The hospital has been a part of our life for almost 5 years now. It’s not the funnest place to be in but cancer kids are still kids,” Benson shared. “They are the brightest beams of light.”
Jane Wexler, whose son has also battled ALL, has been there. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Wexler explained that in addition to regular parent worries — having a child with cancer means living with a host of new anxieties.”
Jayne Wexler shares her story about how childhood cancer impacts the whole family.
“My husband and I will always have fear,” she said. “I don’t think we can ever let go of that. Just when he was OK, then he relapsed, and then he had the bone marrow transplant … so there’s always some sort of worry,” Wexler told SurvivorNet.
“And I do try — you hear people say this — we do have to live each day and be thankful for what we have. And it’s hard to remember that when you’re caught up … it’s very hard to just sort of enjoy the moment, because we just don’t know what’s going to happen in the future.”