A Renewed Verve, Utilizing Dendritic Stem Cell Therapy
Matthew Fong was at the top of his game, accomplishing numerous achievements at the prime of his life.
As the President and Founder of the Strategic Advisory Group, a corporate financer serving the investment and financial consultancy needs of SMEs; he was brushing shoulders with CEOs and major business leaders in America. Formerly, he was elected the State Treasurer of California in the 1990s, serving as the chief financial officer of the world’s sixth largest economy and managing a portfolio of over $32 billion.
Appointed by President George W. Bush, he served as the Chairman of the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation Advisory Board. A certified pilot and flight instructor, Matthew was also affiliated with the US Air Force Reserves as a Lieutenant Colonel.
His initial bout with cancer occurred in Fall 2007. He was diagnosed with cancer of the lower tongue and the right lymph gland. The response of his doctors in the US was quick: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Unfortunately, less than two years after original occurrence, the cancer returned. This time, he considered an innovative method that can help manage his disease.
“I wanted something that was more systemic to address it. Dendritic stem cell therapy appeals to me because it addresses cancer on a systemic basis and uses your own cells in the treatment, instead of simply flooding your body with poisonous chemicals as chemo does,” Matthew declared. The immune stem cell treatment can be added to chemotherapy and radiation to enhance the anti-tumor effect and reduce toxicity.
The challenge was in finding a doctor who could provide this therapy, as its practice was (and still is) restricted in the US. Fortunately, his wife had met world-renowned oncologist Dr. Sam Bernal at a dinner party in Los Angeles.
He was very impressed about the groundbreaking stem cell work that Dr. Bernal was doing in the United States and the Philippines.
“I sat with Dr. Sam and talked to his team, and decided that it would be a very good step to take,” he said.
“The Philippines does have a reputation for being very good with healthcare, doctors, and nurses. But you don’t think of it as a place for cutting-edge medicine and yet I went there, my faith completely with Dr. Sam,” he shared.
With Dr. Bernal’s advice, Matthew eventually chose to be treated at The Medical City, one of the top tertiary care hospitals in the Philippines accredited by the Joint Commission International.
He flew to Manila and was surprised to see Dr. Sam’s nurses waiting for him planeside at the airport at 3 a.m., ready to assist him and take him to his hotel.
“When I was a government official in the US, I used to get that special kind of treatment. Now as a patient in a foreign country, I was a bit nervous. It was very comforting to be so warmly greeted as I walked off the plane and escorted through customs and immigration,” he noted.
At The Medical City’s Regenerative Medicine clinic, Matthew’s blood was drawn through a process called leukapheresis, from which peripheral blood stem cells (PBSCs) were derived.
Matthew’s stem cells were cultivated in the laboratory and then used for dendritic cell therapy. This pioneering treatment utilizes Matthew’s own stem cells that have been sensitized to seek, recognize and kill the cancer cells in his body. Dr. Marina Chua-Tan, one of the hospital’s oncologists, then injected Matthew with a dose of the cultivated stem cells.
Matthew felt at ease and comfortable throughout the whole process—from the time when Dr. Bernal’s team explained stem cell therapy to him in his initial consultation to his arrival in the airport, from being injected with stem cells in one of the Philippines’ leading hospitals to enjoying the live music in the hotel where he was staying.
“I've been with some world-class doctors in California, Texas and Hong Kong, but with the doctors in the Philippines, I never felt rushed. I feel that here in Manila with Dr. Sam’s medical team that I am a patient-partner actively part of solving my healthcare challenges I'm facing,” shared Matthew.
The treatment will continue over the next five months back in Los Angeles. Additionally, Matthew will also be undergoing chemotherapy at the same time.
“I think it's wonderful that the Philippines has taken this initiative to develop healthcare. For certain people like me who want a second chance, the Philippines can become a second home,” he added.