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April 11, 2014

Former Port man winning fight against cancer

Brad Standley knows firsthand the importance of cancer research.

Without it, he’s sure that he would not be here today.

Four years ago, Standley was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia, a cancer that invades the blood.

“It’s a type of leukemia that in most cases can be put into remission with a pill,” said Standley, a former Newburyport resident who now lives in Bethel, Maine.

Standley started taking that pill, Gleevec, and it brought him “close to remission.” After switching to a couple of newer-generation drugs, Standley got the good news from his oncologist: His cancer was undetectable, and he was in remission.

Months later, in March 2012, Standley and his wife, Stacy, attended a National CML Society seminar led by Dr. Jan Cerny of the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester.

“(He) was at the leading edge of dealing with CML and going into clinical trials with something that would be a cure,” Standley said.

After the seminar, Standley approached Cerny and told him his story. Cerny agreed to take him on as a patient. The doctor and his research team studied Standley’s test history and noticed disturbing patterns.

“A month later, the doctor said that although you appear in complete remission, we’ve detected the nastiest possible mutation this cancer could take that will render any pill that’s available useless,” Standley said.

A bone marrow biopsy confirmed the T3151 mutation.

“At this point in my life, I’m feeling perfectly fine, I’m looking perfectly fine,” recalled Standley, an avid skier and fitness enthusiast who had never missed more than three days in a row at the gym.

That made his ultimate decision to pursue a bone marrow donor a difficult one, but his health also made him a good candidate for a transplant from a donor who was only an 80 percent match. It had taken quite some time to find the donor, as there initially were no matches among the millions of people in the Be the Match marrow registry.

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