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Despite not being a perfect match, daughter is bone marrow donor for dad

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Spend time with Ron Wood and his daughter Kaleigh and it's clear they are quite a team. They even talked about competing together on the show 'The Amazing Race.'

Ten months ago, they were faced with a much bigger challenge.

"The doctor said, 'I hate to tell you Mr. Wood, there is no cure for this cancer that I know of right now,'" Ron said, remembering the tough news.

Ron had a leukemia called Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Neoplasm (BPDCN). A clinical trial drug at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo got him into remission. To stay in remission, Wilmot Cancer Institute recommended chemo, radiation and a bone marrow transplant. But a worldwide search found no exact marrow match.

Fortunately, a clinical trial at Wilmot did not require one.

"It has the potential to revolutionize the way we do bone marrow transplants," Dr. Michael Becker of Wilmot Cancer Institute said.

Dr. Becker is the director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program. He was able to tell Kaleigh that even though she was just a 50 percent match to her dad, she was a good donor.

Kaleigh's reaction?

"It definitely wasn't much of a decision," she said. "It was more like, 'When can we do it?'"

Dr. Becker explained the science of how a haploidentical stem cell transplant works.

"It's kind of like you throw in the cells from the donor that are mismatched," Dr. Becker said. "The ones that are specific against the recipient just ramp up and start growing rapidly and you hit them with chemotherapy that removes them. And once you get through that initial phase, patients actually do quite well."

Ron is doing well. He is not yet back to work at Charter Communications, but is gaining strength. Now, Kaleigh is motivated to tell people how easy it was to donate.

"I was hooked up to a machine for maybe a grand total of eight hours and I felt a little tired after a few days afterwards," Kaleigh said. "But if that is going to save somebody's life, I think that most people would be on board with that."

More than a dozen patients at Wilmot Cancer Institute have been in this clinical trial. It's part of a larger, nationwide trial, one this father and daughter are proud to be part of.

"She saved my life...I mean that's pretty much the bottom line. What more can I saw about that?" Ron said.

Dr. Becker said without these clinical trials, Ron's likelihood of beating this cancer would be very small.

On Wednesday, 13WHAM ABC hopes you will join them throughout the day as we tell you about clinical trials funded by our community.

Wilmot Cancer Research Day is Wednesday on 13WHAM News and Fox Rochester. Learn more and make donations here.

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