Northern Kentucky's Sophia Kappen got months of life back with CAR T-cell therapy

WCPOPublished: October 16, 2017Updated: October 17, 2017
Published: October 16, 2017Updated: October 17, 2017

Sophia Kappen was a beautiful little girl, her mother remembers. She was smart and spirited, willing to try anything. "She kept her two brothers in line, always," Amy Kappen said. "She was kind of the boss of the house -- wise beyond her years." When she was 5 years old, Sophia wasn't feeling well for a few weeks. Her condition kept going back and forth. Her family was blindsided to hear she had leukemia. "Doctors told us, 'Don't be worried. If you're going to get pediatric cancer, this is the best kind to get,'" Amy Kappen said. Sophia's family was assured cure rates were greater than 90 percent, and that treatments had come a long way. Sophia was among the 10 percent who aren't cured. A year to the date after her diagnosis, she was gone. Before she died, Sophia was part of a clinical trial that will help other children. According to a doctor at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, it "changes the ball game." Sophia started out with a more traditional treatment: chemotherapy. About a month into it, Amy Kappen said her daughter suffered a serious seizure as a side effect. "It was at that point it brought us to our knees," she said. "We were like, 'This is scary. This treatment is really harsh on these little bodies.'" Sophia made it through treatment and went into remission for three months. Then, her mother said, doctors thought she had another side effect from chemotherapy. Instead, the cancer returned faster than the doctors had seen before. "We know that when children relapse that early, their survival rates go down significantly," Amy Kappen said.

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