Preparing For New Life

His smile says it all. Benjamin Tran is feeling better and ready to go home. After a weeks-long hospital stay, Tran recently spent time talking to bone marrow transplant social worker, Kim Baker with Integrated Care Management about his transition.

Tran is the first patient at IU Health to receive a groundbreaking gene therapy known as CAR-T cell. Specifically, the gene therapy uses custom-made cells to attack a patient’s own specific cancer. As part of the Indiana University’s Grand Challenge Precision Health Initiative, CAR-T cell therapy allows doctors to isolate T-lymphocyte cells – the body’s cells that fight infections and are active in immune response. According to Dr. Mervin C. Yoder, M.D., a leader in IU’s Precision Health Initiative, the T cells are then engineered to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) that targets a protein on a patient’s cancer cells, attaches to them and eventually kills them. Tran is under the care of Dr. Michael Robertson, who specializes in hematology/oncology. Indiana University Health is the only site in Indiana to administer the treatment.

“One of the things about my job is that I see patients before, during and after transplant so there’s a continuity of care and I get to see them progress,” said Baker. She has met several times with Tran, his wife Lien Phan and their 21-year-old son, Andrew during their stay at University Hospital. Her role has included connecting the family to cancer resources and education, and helping them navigate issues such as insurance and lodging.

“Mr. Tran is such a positive person and has such wonderful stories. It has been rewarding to watch him walk, talk, and smile again. His fortitude is inspiring,” said Baker.

The Trans who came to IU Health from Fort Wayne are originally from South Vietnam. Benjamin Tran worked as a machinist for nearly 20 years.

“I want to go home. I want to travel again around the United States and I want to get back to my life,” said Tran.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.