It took a stem cell transplant from her sister to help Julie Polon survive Stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But the same treatment that saved her life also threatened to ruin it with side effects caused by a common and devastating condition.
Now, thanks to scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Polon, a 47-year-old mother of five, has found a way to heal one of the worst symptoms of chronic graft-vs.-host disease, which occurs when cells from a stem cell donor attack the body of the host. In Polon’s case, the GVHD affected her intestines, her mouth, and, worst of all, her eyes.
Her case of ocular GVHD was so severe, the Colville, Washington, woman was recruited as one of the first participants in a clinical trial of bandage contact lenses, therapeutic devices that protect the cornea and soothe the dry eye, irritation, redness and light sensitivity suffered by many stem cell transplant patients.