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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Two days after getting an experimental cancer therapy last May, Max Vokhgelt spiked a fever of 105.2. Surprisingly, he and his doctors saw it as a good sign: It meant the specially engineered cells coursing through his body were doing their job, attacking the leukemia he had been battling on and off for seven years.
As expected, his fever subsided. From his hospital bed in St. Louis, Max, 24, phoned his grandmother, Alexandra Armstrong. “His voice was firm and energetic” in a way it hadn’t been for days, she said. “He said, ‘Bubba, my fever went down. I won. In five or six days, I will be cancer-free.’” It was the last conversation they ever had.