Skip to main content

'I’m not ready to die': Surrey man goes to China for experimental cancer treatment

Share

Lusion Dalpadado was only 21 years old when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL.

“It’s one of the more aggressive types of T-cell ALL. And T-cell ALL is one of the more aggressive types of leukemia. They were like, this is the one you don’t want to have,” said Dalpadado, who was raised in Surrey and had just started working as a plumber when he was diagnosed in June of 2022.

Dalpadado had two rounds of chemotherapy followed by a bone marrow transplant at Vancouver General Hospital, and thought he had beaten cancer.

But after returning from a trip to Europe last summer, he noticed some swelling in his eye. Tests revealed his leukemia had returned.

“They pretty much said since it relapsed in your eye, it’s going to come back inevitably, there’s nothing they can do to stop it,” said Dalpadado.

Just days before Christmas, he was given devastating news. His cancer was considered untreatable, and he was given two months to live.

“I just feel like they’re giving up on me, and I’m not ready to die. I want to do everything I can to live,” said Dalpadado.

So this past weekend, the now 23-year-old flew to China to undergo an experimental treatment called CAR-T cell immunotherapy. He spoke to CTV News from his hospital bed in the city of Xuzhou.

“They’re pretty much taking these cells, training them in a facility, making a bunch of little super soldiers and then injecting them back into your body and saying kill all the cancer cells,” said Dalpadado.

Dr. Kelly McNagny, an immunologist at the University of British Columbia, said CAR-T cell therapy is cutting edge, but not yet proven.

“With this therapy that Lusion is trying to take, it’s in clinical trials, people are trying to perfect this. But it’s really pretty experimental, that’s probably why he had trouble getting access to it in Canada,” said McNagny.

The 28-day treatment in China isn’t cheap. Dalpadado’s family has started a GoFundMe to try to cover part of the cost, which will be at least $93,000 Canadian.

“There have been amazing cases of remission with this type of experimental therapy in some of the reports I have been reading,” said McNagny. “Whether that works long term or not is kind of anyone’s guess. And so you’re asking, what's the price of hope? If you’ve got no other options and you have the resources to try, I certainly understand why he wants to try.”

If the CAR-T cell therapy is successful, Dalpadado will need a second bone marrow transplant, something he’s been told likely won’t be offered to him in B.C., because oncologists here believe his cancer is terminal.

“In other places in the world like the U.K., they give people three transplants before they give up. Three transplants in one year even,” said Dalpadado. “There is potential for years of life. I understand their point of view, there is a good chance it may not work. But nothing’s guaranteed in this line of business, that’s what my oncologist told me the first day.”

Dalpadado can get the bone marrow transplant in China, but it would be expensive and require him to stay there for months.

“It would be nice to be at home to get something like that done, it’s not like a simple procedure,” he said.

In a statement to CTV News, Dr. Kim Chi, the executive vice president and chief medical health officer of B.C. Cancer said: “We empathize with this patient and their family and understand why they would want to pursue all options when faced with such a devastating diagnosis.”

Chi added, “We would like to assure this patient and their family that, upon their return to Canada, our doctors are ready and willing to see them again and discuss the treatment and support options that may be available.”

Dalpadado is hoping if the experimental treatment improves his odds of survival, he can come home, and oncologists in B.C. will take another shot at helping him beat cancer.

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

Group tied to Islamic State plotted fatal Ontario restaurant shooting: Crown

A gunman who is accused of killing a young Ontario man and shooting four of his family members at their small Mississauga restaurant in 2021 was allegedly part of a trio who had pledged allegiance to the listed terrorist group Islamic State, a Crown attorney said in an opening statement in the Brampton murder trial this week.

Stay Connected