Five years ago, Leslie Trudeau’s world came crashing down. At just 22-years-old, her son Taylor lost his battle with leukemia.
"He was the bravest person I know. He never complained. He never said, 'Why me?'" Trudeau said. "I personally don't want any family to go through what we went through."
That’s why Trudeau is pedaling for a cure. Her son's fraternity brothers in Pi Kappa Alpha at the University of New Hampshire created Cycle for Life, a fundraising event held on college campuses across the country.
Participants pay $10 to ride a stationary bike for 30 minutes; 100 percent of the donations go toward cancer research, and so far it's paying off.
Last year, Cycle for Life granted Dr. Anthony Lee, a stem cell therapist at MD Anderson Cancer Center, $250,000 to start a phase I clinical trial on a new leukemia treatment using immune cells donated by a related family member, called natural killer cells or NK cells.
"Their job is to try to kill cancer," Lee said.
But chemo not only attacks the cancer, it also kills all the NK cells. Lee has found a way to grow more NK cells in mass. Using blood from a donor, he takes the NK cells, multiplies them by 30,000 times their original amount and injects them into the patient.
"NK cells job are really not to identify a specific target, but really to look at this combination of what’s good and what’s bad about a cell," Lee said. "And if a cell has an overall balance of things that look dangerous, that's when it decides to kill the cell.”
A beacon of hope for Taylor's family, friends
"It's almost like the phoenix, you know? He passed away but something greater came out of his cause," said Demetri Kouloheras, Taylor's friend.
"He'd be amazed. He would go, 'Really? For me?'" Trudeau said.
For more information about the organization and Lee’s clinical trial, visit taylorcycleforlife.org.