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Ex-Dallas Maverick survives rare form of leukemia thanks to experimental drug treatment
Date:5/19/2011

DALLAS May 19, 2011 Ray Johnston's goal in three years is for his band to sell out at the 1,600-seat House of Blues in Dallas. In eight years, he wants to pack the 6,400-seat Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, and by 2030, to play to tens of thousands of fans at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.

Mr. Johnston's unmentioned goal, though, is to live another year after battling leukemia for the past seven. Despite four relapses, the former Dallas Mavericks basketball player is enjoying life as a rising musician in The Ray Johnston Band.

Although he credits God for his recovery, Mr. Johnston also gives thanks to Dr. Robert Collins, director of the Bone Marrow Transplantation/Hematologic Malignancies Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center, and the experimental drug that has killed his rare, stubborn form of cancer called acute promyelocytic leukemia.

"It's got to be inspiring to Dr. Collins to see that I'm alive because I'm supposed to be done by now," Mr. Johnston said of his painful yet rewarding journey, which was chronicled last year in an HDNet series called "Ray Johnston Band: Road Diaries."

Today, Mr. Johnston's self-described "happy rock" Dallas band is working on its second CD and booking about 100 shows a year. "My primary goal is to keep playing," Mr. Johnston said.

Tamibarotene, the drug that's kept the 32-year-old musician alive, is a retinoid drug that induces cancer cells to differentiate into mature cells and eventually die. Available only in clinical trials in the U.S., tamibarotene was sought for Mr. Johnston under a compassionate use protocol since he did not qualify for those studies and other treatments had been exhausted. The drug, approved only in Japan for cancer treatment, is being developed domestically by CytRx.

"It's amazing that he's still doing so well," said Dr. Collins, professor of internal medicine and senior author of a report on this case published online April 11 in the Jour
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Contact: Debbie Bolles
debbie.bolles@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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