In March, 2017, the spring of Ella's senior year at Gonzaga Prep high school, Ella was diagnosed with a form of cancer called “metastatic Ewing’s sarcoma” after presenting with a consistent cough that did not improve with treatments. Metastatic Ewing’s sarcoma usually occurs in the bones or soft tissue around the bones. It is a developmental pediatric tumor that is most common in 10 to 20 year olds. It is rare, with only around 250 new cases every year in the United States. Ella’s Ewing’s sarcoma is called “metastatic” as it had spread to other parts of her body. When originally diagnosed, Ella had approximately 20 tumors in her lungs, 2 in her pelvis, 1 in her right upper arm and 1 in her big toe.
After receiving her cancer diagnosis, Ella spent the following year undergoing chemo and radiation therapy. At the end of her treatments, in April of 2018, Ella’s scans looked healthy enough that in the fall of 2018, she headed off to the University of Washington where she started her studies in engineering. She was there only two weeks when a follow up scan in October, 2018 showed new tumors in her lungs. Ella’s disease status was then moved from metastatic Ewing’s Sarcoma to relapsed metastatic Ewing's sarcoma. Treatment options and their efficacy for relapsed Ewing’s are very limited. However, Ella did not want to give up the fight. After thoroughly discussing our options with her doctors, including consults in Seattle and in Dallas, Ella made the decision to start a novel clinical trial in Dallas.
The clinical trial Ella is in is called Vigil. It is a phase III clinical trial, meaning that the trial has already successfully moved through two phases. Ella was randomized into the group that not only would receive the trial drug, an immunotherapy vaccine, but also two chemo drugs. The vaccine is made from her own tumors, and is modified in a proprietary way that is designed to trigger her body’s immune system to recognize and attack the cancer in her body. Ella had surgery, to remove and harvest her tumors for the vaccine, in Dallas over Thanksgiving, 2018. She then started the Vigil chemo and immunotherapy vaccine treatments in early December, 2018. As part of the trial, Ella takes day trips to Dallas approximately two times within a three week period. She receives the immunotherapy vaccine in Dallas via a superficial shot in her upper arm every 3 weeks. She also spends approximately one week out of every three weeks, on an oral chemo regimen that she takes at home. She should finish the Vigil immunotherapy trial sometime in August, 2019. Ella is currently being treated by Dr. Maurizio Ghisoli (Texas Oncology, Medical City Dallas). Her Spokane doctors are Dr. Ross Goshorn (Sacred Heart Pediatric Oncologist in Spokane) and Dr. Stephen Thatcher (Cancer Care Northwest, Pediatric Radiation Oncologist). All of her doctors are working with a network of other doctors at COG centers.
Ella has a brilliant mind and courageous heart. She continues to amaze us with her positive attitude and continues to be stronger than everyone around her. Thanks again for all the love and support from family, friends and the Cataldo and Gonzaga Prep communities. We have been humbled by the outreach. - Chere’ & Tom McKeirnan and Family