Ypsilanti resident is first to be admitted to innovative stem cell trial at St. Joe’s
Retired pharmacist Sam Othman knew he was only stalling the inevitable with the multiple medications he was taking for his heart failure. Diagnosed with heart failure six years ago, the 65-year-old Ypsilanti resident knew there must be something else out there to help restore his health.
“Things had been going slowly, slowly for the worst,” Sam said.
Always inquisitive about new and alternative therapies, Sam began to investigate stem cell treatment as a possible option. He felt the theory – relying on stem cells to generate healthy heart tissue – made sense.
Out of curiosity, Sam searched the web and made a serendipitous discovery that St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor was accepting patients in the Phase III CardiAMP® clinical trial.
The investigational study takes a personalized and minimally invasive approach using a patient’s own bone marrow cells in the treatment of ischemic heart failure that develops after a heart attack, and is designed to stimulate the body’s natural healing response.
“On a whim, I thought somewhere close, someone is doing clinical trials with stem cells,” Sam said.
Sam reached out to St. Joe’s, and after a series of screenings, he became the first patient in the CardiAMP® trial at this site and in the state of Michigan.
“I feel very humbled, I feel very blessed,” Sam said. “I don’t know how God or the universe would have ever chosen me for this.”
Interventional cardiologist Zak Sahul, MD, and team completed the trial procedure in September 2018. They first extracted Sam’s bone marrow, separated the stem cells, and – after computer randomization – implanted either the stem cells or performed a placebo procedure. If Sam had been randomized for the investigational therapy, he would have received a high dose of roughly 200 million mononuclear cells directly to the damaged regions of the heart.
Even though Sam does not know which arm he was randomized to, less than two weeks after the procedure, Sam said he could notice subtle differences such as more energy and less brain fog.
“I feel great. I can feel my heart beating, contracting stronger than before,” said Sam, who has survived three heart attacks that resulted in scar tissue around his heart.
Though Sam won’t learn for another two years whether he received his stem cells or the placebo, he said he is moving forward believing he’s on his way toward better health. He continues with his normal heart medications, and he has begun to eat a more healthful diet. He also plans to start a mild exercise regimen after New Year’s.
“Sam is an ideal candidate for the CardiAMP Heart Failure Trial,” said Dr. Sahul, “and his participation will help us determine whether this new therapy can offer an alternative treatment outside of conventional medication or diet for other patients living with heart failure. Most importantly, if this trial is successful, stem cell therapy will give them hope for an enhanced quality of life.”
Sam will report back to St. Joe’s frequently for follow-up visits, during which he will undergo additional cardiac testing, complete a walking test, and complete a questionnaire to document his progress.
Sam said he is grateful for his team at St. Joe’s, which he described as “top-notch,” including Dr. Sahul, nurses and technicians, and is excited to see how his participation in this clinical trial could advance research for other heart failure patients who could likely benefit from stem cell therapy.
“The difference is very noticeable for me,” Sam beamed. “It’s more than I could have asked for.”
The CardiAMP® Heart Failure Trial is a phase III study of up to 260 patients at up to 40 centers nationwide. Study subjects must be diagnosed with New York Heart Association (NYHA) Class II or III heart failure that has developed after a previous heart attack.
For information about eligibility or enrollment in the trial, please call 734-712-2517 or visit www.stjoeshealth.org/cardiamp-trial.