• Cancer

    John Cadwallader has hope, time and new options after CAR-T treatment for multiple myeloma

John Cadwallader
John Cadwallader shares his journey of hope and perseverance after CAR-T cell therapy.

"Every day is a gift," says John Cadwallader reflecting from his hospital room.

For 10 years, the Welsh-born farmer and craftsman has been fighting multiple myeloma: a cancer that affects plasma cells which produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies.

In multiple myeloma, cancerous plasma cells accumulate in the bone marrow and crowd out healthy blood cells. Rather than produce helpful antibodies, the cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that can cause bone pain, fractures, kidney failure and other complications.

"I've struggled and carried on fighting this disease as well as trying to survive," John says.

Watch: John Cadwallader has hope, time and new options after CAR-T treatment for multiple myeloma

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (2:32) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please courtesy: "Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

He went through chemotherapy and stem cell transplants in the U.K., but his cancer was relentless. In 2021, after another failed treatment, John began looking for options in other countries.

Dr. Sikander Ailawadhi, a hematologist and oncologist at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, kept coming up in his research. John took a chance and sent an email.

"Whatever it takes, if I have to come across the ocean, whenever they want me, I will do it," John says.

After crossing the Atlantic Ocean and meeting with a team at Mayo, John learned he was a candidate for chimeric antigen receptor-T cell therapy, or CAR-T. The personalized treatment collects a patient's T cells, which normally help fight off infections, and genetically engineers them to target cancer cells. 

Florida became John's home for months as his cells were collected and prepared. In March 2022, his modified cells were infused back into his body. His cancer went into remission.

John Cadwallader CAR-T infusion.
John Cadwallader underwent CAR-T cell therapy in March 2022.

"Being able to go back to his life in that state of remission, spending time with his sons, thinking of going back to work if he wanted to, thinking of living his life — I think that was the No. 1 thing that it did for him," says Dr. Ailawadhi.

John spent months at home in remission, but his cancer was detected during a follow-up appointment. However, his story doesn't end there.

While John had been undergoing CAR-T and, later, in remission, new clinical trials became available in the U.K. He started care locally and is monitored closely by his Mayo team from Florida and London. John hopes to inspire others to keep searching for treatments and put up the best fight against their disease.

"I'm just looking to be happy," says John. "And basically, try and help somebody else. Because that gives me power to be able to see somebody benefit the way that I have."