Project Stella is named for Stella Novotny, an unforgettable little girl who lost her life to AML-RAM when she was just four years old. Stella had many exploratory treatments and a first-in-human immunotherapy trial, until her tiny body could not fight any longer. She lost her battle in November 2017, just 3 weeks after her 4th birthday. Stella’s parents, Casey and Jed, launched Project Stella to help change the outcome for other children and families facing AML. Their courage and vision are responsible for this life saving project. We owe them so much.
Ella was diagnosed with AML-RAM when she was 14 months old in October of 2019. She received three rounds of intense, inpatient chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant from a matched, unrelated donor. Ella was hospitalized for over 9 months and was critically ill due to infections from treatement as well as a severe form of gut graft vs. host disease. She was finally discharged in late May of 2020 but is still heavily monitored and has a long road of recovery.
Ella continues to do well and remains in remission at 2.5 years post-transplant. Thanks to her team at Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Ella's immune system is strengthening, her lung complications from her transplant are improving, and she even started preschool this fall! Ella continues to impress us all with her wisdom, resilience, and humor. Key highlights of the past few months were meeting Dr. Meshinchi and the Novotny family in person for the first time as well as Ella's Make A Wish trip to Disneyworld. We hold our breaths and count our blessings every day.
~Written by Troy and Ashley Peck
Since relapsing in January, Aspen has done remarkably well. She has periodically received donor lymphocyte infusions and STRO02 and has remained in remission! Throughout her treatment, she remained healthy and strong, and most importantly, outpatient. She has now been in remission for over 9 months and has been living her life like any toddler should- exploring outside, going on trips with her family, and making messes at every opportunity. Aspen will continue to receive STRO02 for the next year, with the hope of remaining in remission. Her parents credit the work done in Project Stella to why she is alive today.
Indya has endured a difficult journey since her transplant in April. Despite having severe graft vs host disease post transplant, Indya’s cancer cells returned within three months of transplant. Miraculously her doctors were able to regain remission and she received a second transplant in November of 2022, her donor being her mother. She is currently doing well and experiencing minimal side effects. Indya and her family are hopeful to return home by Christmas, for good.
Emari was a spunky little girl who was diagnosed with AML-RAM at the age of only 18 months. She endured countless rounds of intensive chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, but relapsed less than 2 months post transplant, even before engrafting and creating a new immune system. She received one of the drugs (STRO-002) tested in Project Stella and though she made a remarkable turnaround after only the first dose, could not continue to fight infection and the large disease burden. Emari sadly passed away on September 28, 2021 at home in the arms of her mother. Our hearts break with her family.
Emma is a friendly and lovable one year old girl who insists on waving to everyone! She was diagnosed with AML-RAM in October of 2021 when she was 9 months old following concerns of an ongoing fever and a bump on her head.
Since her diagnosis, Emma has been treated with multiple rounds of chemotherapy as well as one of the Project Stella drugs, STRO002. Emma achieved remission and received a bone marrow transplant on April 6 2022. Sadly, her cancer cells returned within just a few months of her transplant and she began again on the road to remission. Gratefully she achieved remission and had a second bone marrow transplant in October of 2022, with her mother as her donor. She is recovering well and remains in remission. We are sending prayers and hope that she continues on the path to cure.
Sophia is a feisty and funny two year old girl who was diagnosed with AML-RAM in November of 2021. Since her diagnosis, Sophia’s treatment course has been long with many hurdles. After not responding to standard chemotherapy, one dose of STRO002 brought her disease burden from 95% to 0.25%! A few more doses brought her to remission and she received her bone marrow transplant on April 29, 2022. Sadly her cancer returned within a few months of her transplant. Like Aspen, Sophia is currently on track to begin receiving donor lymphocyte infusions paired with STRO02 with the hope of eliminating any lingering cancer cells, for good.