More on the trial aiming to cure sickle cell

More on the trial aiming to cure sickle cell

Below is a transcript of correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook’s conversation with 60 Minutes Overtime’s Ann Silvio about his story this week on a gene therapy trial that may be a cure for sickle cell anemia.


ANN SILVIO: Jon, you reported on a medical breakthrough on 60 Minutes this week. How significant is this for sickle cell anemia?

DR. JON LAPOOK: I think it’s a big deal — it’s a proof of concept. It says, “We can actually do this.” We can fiddle with the genes and we can cure somebody with sickle cell anemia.

DR. JON LAPOOK: Are you daring to say there’s a cure for sickle cell anemia with this treatment?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS: I am daring to say a cure for sickle cell disease may even be now at hand.

ANN SILVIO: Was there a voice in your head that was telling you, “Let him say the word “cure”, I’m not gonna say it.”

DR. JON LAPOOK: Oh, I would never have said the word “cure.” We’re people of science, but you don’t want to jinx it, you know? Like, okay, if we don’t say it– but yeah, I think– from everything that it looks like, it looks like a cure. And for me, it’s especially emotional because from 1976 to 1986 — ten years when I was seeing a lot of people who had sickle cell anemia. And I could tell you their names still, but I won’t for HIPAA reasons. But one after the other, they died.

ANN SILVIO: You couldn’t help them?

DR. JON LAPOOK: All you could do was give them pain medicine. So it was a very helpless feeling. So I was taught first, it was, like, the first month of medical school “Someday we’re gonna have a cure for sickle cell anemia.” That was 1976. And so for me to see that– that patient, right in front of my eyes, who’s cured.

ANN SILVIO: You’re talking about Jennelle Stephenson?

DR. JON LAPOOK: Jennelle Stephenson

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Jennelle Stephenson strolls with Dr. Jon LaPook

ANN SILVIO: So when you started reporting this story, did you know what the outcome was gonna be, that this would be successful?

DR. JON LAPOOK: Not at all, in fact I didn’t know if it was gonna work. Jennelle hadn’t gotten any treatment yet. Her whole life she’s been a sick person.

JENNELLE STEPHENSON: It’s a very sharp, like, stabbing, almost feels like bone-crushing pain.

DR. JON LAPOOK: She thought she was gonna die early. She had a lot of friends who died early.

DR. JON LAPOOK: You just seem so happy.

JENNELLE STEPHENSON: I am, I am, I really am.

ANN SILVIO: She’s given up things though. I understand she’s given up the choice to have children.

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