Montefiore in the News
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Montefiore in the News

May 23, 2022
Pediatric hematologist-oncologist, Dr. David Loeb, describes how CAR-T cell therapy works and why 14 year-old Miguel was the first young person selected for this therapy
at CHAM.

NORWOOD, the Bronx (PIX11) — Hospital staff in the Bronx threw a surprise birthday party for a 14-year-old boy who’s been battling recurring leukemia for the last three years.

Miguel Castillo thought he was only going to the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore with his parents for a regular doctor’s appointment on Monday, but once he walked into the room and the curtain was pulled back, nurses and doctors yelled out in celebration.

“I’m thankful for all of them,” Castillo said. “They each individually helped me throughout my journey with leukemia and I just want to say thank you.”

He’s not only left a mark on the hospital staff, but hospital food too. He was able to improve the meals for other hospitalized children.

“The food isn’t very appetizing, so I spoke to the chef about adding some changes to the food in the kitchen,” Castillo added.

He and the chef teamed up to make the food taste better. They even made sushi together. It’s a proud moment for him during a difficult time.
Dr. David Loeb, the chief of pediatric hematology, oncology, and cellular therapy at CHAM, said the Bronx boy underwent chemotherapy for the first two and a half years of his treatment.

“It looked like everything was going well from the perspective of controlling his leukemia, but unfortunately, pretty soon after his treatment ended, we found that he had relapsed,” Loeb said.

His team then implemented a bone marrow transplant in hopes of preventing the cancer from ever coming back, but a few months later it did which is what led the team to offer him CAR-T cell therapy. He’s the first pediatric patient at the hospital to receive such treatment.

“We take white blood cells out of the patient and they’re genetically engineered to become better at killing leukemia cells and that process takes about three weeks and after that, those cells are given back to the patient they came from and then they go into his body, find the leukemia cells that have survived all of the other treatment he’s had so far, and hopefully get rid of them,” Dr. Loeb added.

So far it has gotten rid of the leukemia cells. Castillo is currently in remission and remains positive.
His family happy to share that he’ll be going to camp this summer to live a normal teenage life.