Clinical trial helps 25-year-old Chicago man battle lymphoma

Barry Rapport with his dog and the Chicago skyline in the background. A UChicago Medicine clinical trial allowed him to avoid bleomycin, a lymphoma drug that can be harsh on the lungs. He's been cancer-free for two years.

Barry Rapport remembers the scene clearly. He was working in his office at a trust company when a doctor phoned. The physician asked if his family had a history of cancer. 

It was October 2020.

"I remember dropping all of my files that I was holding and going a little numb," said the Chicago resident, now 27. 

One day earlier, Rapport had undergone a CT scan at an urgent care center to determine why his cough had lingered for months.

But he had neither COVID-19 nor allergies. He had lymphoma. He lacked the telltale symptoms: night sweats, weight loss and fatigue.

Yet the scan revealed swollen lymph nodes throughout his body, and fluid building up around his heart.

Rapport was stunned. He was 25 years old and felt healthy, working out five to six times a week. 

The physician advised to Rapport go to an emergency room. He did.

A needle biopsy was inconclusive. That December, he underwent diagnostic surgery to remove a lymph node in his left armpit. 

The results came back December 16 and physicians' suspicions were confirmed: Rapport had stage IV Lymphocyte-Depleted Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

"The roughly two months of waiting until you actually get the diagnosis is the absolute worst," said Rapport. "There were a lot of sleepless nights. And you don't think about anything else for those two months."

Now, it was time to focus on treatment. Through a friend of his aunt's, Rapport learned about University of Chicago Medicine lymphoma expert Sonali Smith, MD. Smith immediately eased her patient's anxieties about online claims he'd read about this particularly rare form of blood cancer. 

The first scan we did after two months showed that he was already essentially in complete remission.

Two weeks after receiving a diagnosis, Rapport received his first infusion as part of a six-month course of chemotherapy at UChicago Medicine. On Smith's recommendation, he signed up for a

Sonali M. Smith, MD

Sonali M. Smith, MD

Sonali M. Smith, MD, is an expert in lymphoma care and research and is the Chief of the Section of Hematology/Oncology. Dr. Smith is actively researching new treatments for lymphoma, such as immunotherapies that harness the body's immune system to fight cancer.

Learn more about Dr. Smith