A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

A nonprofit, independent news source to inform, inspire, educate and connect the St. Louis Jewish community.

St. Louis Jewish Light

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Miracle update: Doctors able to remove all of 11-year-old Drew Patchin’s brain cancer

Drew Patchin.

A good news update on 11-year-old Drew Patchin, who was diagnosed in 2019 with a rare form of brain cancer called Anaplastic ependymoma. After participating in a Car T-cell therapy clinical trial at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis that successfully killed some of Drew’s brain tumor, doctors were able to remove the remaining tumor – seemingly all of it.

“I talk with Drew’s oncologist on Friday and asked her if she thought it was reasonable to hope (the tumor) doesn’t come back. And she told me she is hoping for that, of course,” said Drew’s mother, Jennifer Patchin. “The challenge is that there’s literally no data for any ependymoma kid who had Car T-cell therapy and a total resection of their third tumor. There are no percentages she could give me because the data doesn’t yet exist. She said she would be nervous from now to eternity with every scan they do for Drew because at any point it could be back but it’s reasonable to hope it won’t return.”

Currently, Drew is home in St. Louis, eager to return to his fifth-grade classroom at Bellerive Elementary School in the Parkway district. Although he has missed much of the school year because of his cancer illness, he hopes to finish the term and be able to start middle school in the fall after catching up as much as possible this summer.

But first comes another Disney cruise for the family later this week, their second of the year. Jennifer Patchin and her sister, Debbie “Aunt Bebbie” Schultz, explained that the family had to move both of these cruises from when they originally were scheduled because of Drew’s hospitalizations and treatments. In fact, when the Jewish Light last caught up with Drew and his family a little more than a year ago, they were doing all they could to “make memories” because Drew’s prognosis was dire.

“All of this has been messing with my brain in a really good way,” said Patchin. “Initially, we were told last February (2023) that he probably wasn’t going to make it to 2024. Now we are planning what he’s going to be doing in the fall. Wrapping my brain around making plans for the future – it’s just amazing.”

After the Light spoke with the family in March 2023, Schultz said they connected with a doctor in Houston who was doing a clinical trial for which Drew qualified. In July, the family went to Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston where Drew had a partial tumor resection.

“The doctor was able to remove about half of the tumor. Then Drew had a chemotherapy clinical trial,” said Schultz. “We found out in September that that trial had failed, and the tumor (the doctor) had resected had grown back. We came home with the sense that we were out of options.”

Then the Patchins learned of a clinical trial at St. Jude’s in Memphis for which Drew qualified called Car T-cell therapy. As Schultz explained it, “in October doctors removed a bunch of Drew’s white blood cells, then sent them off to a lab where we like to say they super-powered them – they trained them to attack cells with a particular protein that Drew’s tumor expressed.

“In December, he began getting infusions where they would put those T-cells back in to target his particular type of cancer cells. He had six weeks of infusions and at the end of January they told us that based on his scan, they believed his tumor was dying off, which was huge.”

Even more astonishing was when a week later Drew’s neurosurgeon said he felt he could successfully remove the remaining tumor. At the end of February, doctors removed most of the tumor; two weeks ago, they operated at a different angle and removed the rest.

“The entire tumor is gone,” said Schultz. “He is at least for now having to have infusions on a monthly basis, so that if there are any tiny, microscopic cells that no one can see still there, the Car T-cells will target them and remove them.”

And while all of this is tremendous news, Drew still had residual effects from his surgery. He has lost all hearing his in left ear. He has facial palsy where he only half smiles and one of his eyes doesn’t close on its own. He has some swallowing issues, but a minor vocal cord surgery seems to have helped that.

“Those things are a result of surgery but the physical symptoms that were a result of the tumor, like some balance issues, all have been resolved,” said Schultz. “A couple of weeks ago, for the first time in so long, he ran enough to induce his asthma. He hasn’t been able to move like that for a year.”

Added Patchin, “We definitely got the Hanukkah miracle we wanted. I don’t think anyone is more excited than Drew to go back to school, and to be able to spend time with his brother and his friends.”

The Patchin family. From left Tyler, Drew, Jennifer, Snoopy and Doug.
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About the Contributor
Ellen Futterman
Ellen Futterman, Editor-in-Chief
A native of Westbury, New York, Ellen Futterman broke into the world of big city journalism as a general assignment reporter for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner in the latter part of the 20th century. Deciding that Tinsel Town was not exciting enough for her, she moved on to that hub of glamour and sophistication, Belleville, Ill., where she became a feature writer, columnist and food editor for the Belleville News-Democrat. A year later the St. Louis Post-Dispatch scooped her up, neither guessing at the full range of her talents, nor the extent of her shoe collection. She went on to work at the Post-Dispatch for 25 years, during which time she covered hard news, education, features, investigative projects, profiles, sports, entertainment, fashion, interiors, business, travel and movies. She won numerous major local and national awards for her reporting on "Women Who Kill" and on a four-part series about teen-age pregnancy, 'Children Having Children.'" Among her many jobs at the newspaper, Ellen was a columnist for three years, Arts and Entertainment Editor, Critic-at-large and Daily Features (Everyday) Editor. She invented two sections from scratch, one of which recently morphed from Get Out, begun in 1995, to GO. In January of 2009, Ellen joined the St. Louis Jewish Light as its editor, where she is responsible for overseeing editorial operations, including managing both staff members and freelancers. Under her tutelage, the Light has won 16 Rockower Awards — considered the Jewish Pulitzer’s — including two personally for Excellence in Commentary for her weekly News & Schmooze column. She also is the communications content editor for the Arts and Education Council of St. Louis. Ellen and her husband, Jeff Burkett, a middle school principal, live in Olivette and have three children. Ellen can be reached at 314-743-3669 or at [email protected].