Immune System, Unleashed by Cancer Therapies, Can Attack Organs

Dec 4, 2016

By Matt Richtel

As Chuck Peal lay in a Waterbury, Conn., emergency room one Sunday in early September, doctors furiously tried to make sense of his symptoms. Mr. Peal, 61, appeared to be dying, and they were not sure why.

He slipped in and out of consciousness, his blood pressure plummeted, his potassium levels soared and his blood sugar spiked to 10 times the normal level. A doctor suspected a heart attack, but uncertainty left him urgently researching the situation on his phone.

This was not a heart attack. Mr. Peal’s body was attacking itself, a severe reaction by his immune system that was a side effect of a seemingly miraculous cancer treatment aimed at saving his life.

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