With CAR T cell therapy, doctors at City of Hope enlist your immune system in the fight against cancer
A single human immune cell. With CAR T cell therapy, these tiny powerhouses are taught to find and destroy tumor cells.
One of the most promising areas of cancer research and treatment is known as immunotherapy, in which a patient’s own immune system is enlisted in the fight against cancer.
This approach is more than just a narrow field of study at City of Hope. It is the central component of groundbreaking research and clinical trials currently underway. City of Hope continues to be at the forefront of a powerful form of immunotherapy known as CAR T cell therapy. In this approach, the medical team starts with certain white blood cells known as T cells drawn from a patient. They augment this raw material with lab-made chimeric antigen receptors—the “CAR” in CAR T cell. The enhancement enables cells to identify a specific cancer by its signature protein. The therapeutic cells are expanded in the lab to a population in the billions and then reinfused into the patient. Back in the theater of immune combat, they do their cancer-fighting work without hurting healthy tissue.
A Foundation of Innovation
City of Hope's history with CAR T cell therapy dates back to the late 1990s and builds on the pioneering work of Stephen J. Forman, M.D., director of City of Hope's Cellular Immunotherapy Center. The City of Hope bone marrow transplantation program began in 1976 and has since grown into one of the largest, most successful programs of its kind in the nation. To date, more than 15,000 bone marrow transplants have been performed at City of Hope, with survival rates exceeding expectations for 15 consecutive years, according to the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research.
Currently, City of Hope is investigating CAR T cell therapy as a bridge to bone marrow transplant for leukemia and lymphoma patients and is unique in its research of CAR T in combination with transplant.
Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patient Chuck Fata was nearly out of options when he came to City of Hope for CAR T cell therapy. Four years later, he remains cancer-free.
Among the diseases that City of Hope physicians and scientists are targeting with CAR T cell therapy are lymphoma, leukemia and multiple myeloma. Based on their success with blood cancers, City of Hope researchers are now unleashing CAR T cells against an array of solid tumors, including glioblastoma and prostate cancer. City of Hope’s CAR T trials for glioblastoma—a type of aggressive brain tumor—were the first of their kind in the world to inject reengineered CAR T cells directly into the tumor site and cerebrospinal fluid. A case report was published in 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine.
City of Hope has one of the most comprehensive CAR T cell programs in the world, with 29 CAR T cell clinical trials ongoing and plans to open numerous additional trials in the coming year. City of Hope has treated more than 450 patients with CAR T therapy.
City of Hope, with its clinical care, research and production facilities all on one campus, is uniquely positioned to lead this work. Few institutions are capable of harnessing the same comprehensive “bench to bedside” resources necessary for the discovery, translational research, clinical development, manufacturing, quality assurance and delivery of leading-edge treatments for its patients. City of Hope has the ability to harvest, reprogram, multiply and deliver T cells all on the same campus.
City of Hope researcher Saul Priceman, Ph.D., trains CAR T cells to seek out and destroy solid tumors.
Key to City of Hope’s success in advancing lifesaving CAR T cell therapy is its legacy of patient-centered care—treating not just the illness but caring for the entire patient. The community there includes researchers, scientists, doctors, nurses and supportive care professionals, each of whom is dedicated to giving patients the chance to live longer, better and more fully.
While it’s being investigated for the treatment of many kinds of cancer, CAR T cell therapy is currently only available to certain patients, often those with relapsed disease or disease that has not responded well to other treatments.
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