Discovery Channel’s new series, First In Human, follows four patients with serious illnesses who are accepted to the National Institute of Health to undergo experimental treatments that they hope will cure them. One of the patients featured on the series is Anita McAllister, who suffered from Metastatic Melanoma before she passed away last year.
In the premiere episode of Discovery’s First In Human, Anita explains that she was 36 when she first noticed a small spot on her left temple. She immediately visited her dermatologist, and a week or two later, received a phone call saying she had Metastatic Melanoma. “It was paralyzing to hear those words,” she tells cameras.
First In Human chronicles doctors attempts at finding a cure for Metastatic Melanoma, and Anita’s and her family’s experiences as she undergoes these potential treatments.
Read on to learn more about Anita McAllister.
1. She Passed Away on August 2, 2016
Anita McAllister passed away on August 2, 2016, at age 43.
She underwent several treatments over the course of the seven years she had Metastatic Melanoma, but the cancer returned and metastasized. “Everything they were throwing at it really wasn’t doing much of anything,” Anita tells cameras of the treatments she attempted before visiting the NIH’s Building 10.
Without any standard treatment, Anita enrolled in a trial that used her own immune system to attempt to fight the melanoma.
2. She Is Survived by Her Husband and Three Children
Anita is survived by her husband, Andrew McAllister, who she was married to for 20 years; and their three daughters, Madeleine, Abigail and Claire.
She is also survived by her parents, Roy and Dorothy, and a sister and brother-in-law, Monica and Todd Cooper.
At the time that she learned of her cancer, Anita’s daughter was 1 and she was still nursing. “The first thought I had in my brain was that she’s gonna go grow up never having known me,” she says upon learning the news of her illness.
3. She Earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Montevallo
Anita graduated from Shelby Academy high school and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Dietetics from the University of Montevallo.
She went on to complete her Dietetics internship at the Medical College of Virginia in 1995, making her a registered Dietitian. Her obituary states that she served a number of years as a member and in some leadership roles at the Richmond Dietic Association.
4. She Taught Sunday School
Anita was an active member of the River Road Baptist Church for over 20 years. She served as the church’s Deacon, Assistant Sunday School Superintendent, Sunday School teacher, member of the Kitchen and Flower Committees, and Health Cabinet, among others.
Andy, Anita’s husband, explains on the series premiere that Anita was a spiritual person, which helped her hold out hope for the future of melanoma treatment.
5. She Was a Patient of Stephanie Goff
Dr. Stephanie Goff is the leader of one of the first trials Anita enrolled in at Building 10.
The operation Goff led involved removing Anita’s tumors and sending those to a lab. The immunotherapy treatment then then attempted to extract the immune cells from these tumors and grow them in the labs.
“Using immunotherpay.. has high risk. It has high benefit, but also high risk– which is why we’re in this setting,” Goff tells cameras of First In Human.