Canadian Scleroderma Patient Seeks Funding for Stem Cell Transplant in US

Patrícia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patrícia Silva, PhD |

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mike berryMike Berry had a life like any other 42-year-old man — married to wife Christine and a newborn son, Troy — when he was diagnosed with systemic scleroderma fourteen months ago. Berry, who was born in Kingston, Canada, started experiencing shortness of breath, and the physicians discovered that he suffered from the rare auto-immune disease. With his only hope an experimental and expensive therapy in the United States, the Berry family is now seeking to raise funds to travel and be submitted to the treatment.

In addition to systemic scleroderma, a disease that causes an excessive production of collagen by the body, damaging the internal organs, Berry has also developed an equally-rare secondary disease in his lungs, which already led him to the loss of almost 60% of the lung function and to experiencing difficulties even in walking. Suffering from the life-threatening disease, for which there is no cure, and with such a severe development, Mike Berry is now unsure about how much time of life he still has.

“It’s very aggressive and even surprising the doctors,” he explains. However, the Berry family still have hope, as they have known about an experimental treatment developed at the Northwestern University, in Chicago. Dr. Richard Burt discovered the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (HSCT), a stem cell therapy, during which the physician collects stem cells from the patient, wipes out the existing immune system and reuses the stem cells to restore the immune system.

The therapy, which aims to stop scleroderma, has registered a success rate of around 70%, and some of the patients even recovered their lung function. However, the treatments alone cost $150,000, and, in Berry’s case,there are also transportation, lodging, food, and other costs. As it is experimental, the therapy hasn’t been approved and is not available in Canada, and the Ontario Health Insurance (OHIP) had already refused to cover medical costs outside of the country.

Therefore, the family has engaged in a fundraising campaign to pay for the expenses, starting with the website, in which Mike Berry shares is history in a video blog, as well as updates on the fundraising. In addition, they are also hosting events, as “An Evening to Support Mike,” which will happen on Saturday, October 25, in Kingston, Canada. The Berry family believes that the HSCT will eventually be approved in Canada, but they fear it might not be in time for them.

Watch above the first video from Mike Berry’s video blog, and other fundraising events that will be host to help the family can be seen here.