Suncoast Communities Blood Bank to help cancer patients

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SARASOTA - Suncoast Communities Blood Bank is expanding its role beyond blood collection. It’s creating a mononuclear cellular therapy center to help in the treatment of cancer patients.

“I mean I ran a mile this morning, I'm going back packing with the boy scouts this weekend, I don't have any symptoms yet, but I know from tests that the stuff is growing in me,” says David Farabee.

59-year-old David Farabee is always on the go volunteering with local Boy Scouts, enjoying the great outdoors and adventures with his new bride. One would never guess the "stuff", as he calls it, growing inside him is cancer. “I had surgery, but it wasn't completely effective in removing it - it had already gotten lose in me.”

Two years ago, after a routine physical, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, but now it's matasticised to his bones, but he says- it's not going to stop him. “I just want to do everything I can do.

Which is exactly why he is taking part in a new partnership with Florida Cancer Specialists and Suncoast Communities Blood Bank, called Mononuclear Cellular Therapy.

“Therapy involves using a patient’s own immune system to boost, like a jump cable on car battery, to boost the immune system to fight back against that cancer in that patient.”

Dr. Richard Brown, an oncologist with Florida Cancer Specialists thinks MNC Therapy could be a special tool in the fight against cancer. “This treatment can be deployed for a lot of different malignancies in theory I think we're just basically scratching the surface in terms of possibilities.”

It's those possibilities that has David sitting in a chair for 3 to 4 hours hooked up to a machine state-of-the-art instrument that takes collects certain white blood cells. “These cells are sent to a lab, several in country, they prime the cells with something like PSA that stimulates, and that says, when you see this react and fight the cancer,” says Dr. Brown.

The cells are shipped back, and then infused right back into David. He will repeat that process three times, two weeks apart for a total of six weeks-- and that's it.

But until SCBB recently started the MNC therapy, patients had to travel to Tampa of Ft. Myers for it. “It's a great improvement for our patients to be able to do it here in Sarasota and are truly appreciative of Suncoast Communities Blood Bank for providing the service to our patients."

Not to mention giving patients, like David Farabee, an added boost in their fight against cancer. “The fact that I know I'm probably not going to live very long gives me a different attitude about life. I just got married about three months ago and that's kind of a promise of the future I would love to live long enough to see my grandchildren. I don't know if that's going to happen, but would be wonderful.”

Thanks to new technology, there's added hope for David and many others as well.

SCBB is expected to enroll over 30 patients taking part in MNC therapy this year. They're also taking part in a phase three clinical trial to use Mononuclear Cellular Therapy on ovarian cancer patients. This trial is led by Dr. James Fiorica, head of Gynecologic Oncology at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.