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Hitting a Home Run with an Investigational Drug

Photo of anaplastic large cell lymphoma survivor, Zach.

Zach, an anaplastic large cell lymphoma survivor

Thirteen-year-old Zach had a great day in August 2017, when he caught a home run hit by Tommy Joseph at a Philadelphia Phillies game and later met him for a ball signing. Zach’s mother, Pam, watched with pride, a marked contrast from her anguish 7 years earlier when Zach had been diagnosed with anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

Zach had a difficult time with his chemotherapy and relapsed halfway through treatment. His doctors proposed an NCI–Children’s Oncology Group clinical trial of crizotinib (Xalkori), a drug that targets mutations in a gene called ALK and that has been used successfully against certain lung cancers.

Within 3 days of starting crizotinib, Zach transformed back to the high-octane boy his family knew best. His tumors shrank over time, and his doctors still find no evidence of cancer. An avid athlete in school and youth leagues, Zach dreams of hitting his own home runs as a professional baseball player. In Pam’s eyes, crizotinib has already been a home run. “This is a drug that saved my boy’s life,” she reflected gratefully.

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