SALT LAKE CITY – Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah (U of U) announced today that it has been certified to offer both chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The therapies are approved for types of aggressive blood cancers, including B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. HCI is one of a few locations nationwide, and the only in the Mountain West, approved to offer these new therapies to adult cancer patients. The CAR T therapy treatment service will be run by experts from HCI’s Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) program and the Department of Internal Medicine at the U of U.
"CAR T therapy is a breakthrough in hematologic cancer treatment," said Daniel Couriel, MD, director of the HCI BMT program. "It has been examined through the world’s most rigorous processes to scrutinize new treatment options, including peer-reviewed laboratory research and clinical trials. CAR T has demonstrated itself to be safe and effective, and it has an impressive improvement in remission rates for many patients."
CAR T cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy where the patient’s own immune system is used to fight the cancer. Doctors take a patient’s white blood cells (T cells) and genetically reprogram them to recognize and attack a specific protein on the cancer cell. The newly reprogrammed CAR T cells are then reintroduced into the patient’s body through an infusion treatment. The CAR T cells then find, attack, and kill the cancerous cells in the patient’s body.
"We are uniquely set up at HCI to offer this revolutionary cancer treatment to patients with blood cancers, thanks to our vast expertise and long-standing research interest in the field," said Michael Deininger, MD, PhD, director of the Huntsman Center of Excellence in hematological malignancies and hematology, and professor and chief of hematology and hematologic malignancies at the U of U.
In order to receive approval to offer this therapy, a hospital must have sophisticated resources required to collect and process the patient’s blood to engineer the CAR T cells, as well as the expertise to manage the complex side effects of this transplant treatment.
"As a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, HCI will play a unique role in advancing our understanding of how this sophisticated treatment can be used in the most effective ways to treat patients with complex cancers and reduce severity of the treatment’s side effects," said Deborah Stephens, DO, co-director of HCI’s CAR T therapy treatment service.
In addition to the clinical therapy offered to patients, HCI researchers continue to investigate how immunotherapies, like CAR T cell therapy, can be used to target cancer. Catherine Lee, MD, co-director of HCI’s CAR T therapy treatment services says, "by providing CAR T cell therapy, HCI patients will continue to receive the latest and most advanced treatments available for blood cancers."
HCI will offer both CAR T treatments recently approved by the FDA: Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) and Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel).
For more information about CAR T cell therapy at HCI, visit www.huntsmancancer.org/car-t.