Newswise — UT Southwestern Medical Center is one of nine exclusive sites in the country enrolling multiple myeloma patients for a clinical trial of the CAR-T “living drug” therapy for cancer.
CAR-T therapy (chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy) is an innovative immunotherapy that uses a re-engineered version of the patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer. A UT Southwestern cancer researcher who was among the first patients to be treated, has now been cancer-free for two years.
“It’s thrilling to be part of this pioneering effort using a genetically modified version of the patient’s own T cells to fight their cancer,” said site investigator Dr. Larry Anderson, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine with UT Southwestern’s Simmons Cancer Center. “We are very excited to be pioneering this promising treatment for multiple myeloma in this region. These are patients who either did not respond to traditional treatments or who relapsed at least twice. It is gratifying to be able to offer this next step, which offers such hope."
Multiple myeloma patients interested in participating in the trial can call 214-645-HOPE (214-645-4673) and ask for Julie Zuckerman.
The CAR-T process involves taking the patient’s T cells, a type of white blood cell in the body’s immune system, and sending them to a commercial laboratory. There, the cells are primed to specifically recognize cancer cells, much like T cells in the body are primed to recognize a virus during an infection. The activated T cells are then returned to the patient’s body, where they attack the cancer cells. Each dose of this CAR-T living drug is unique and specific to the patient.
Multiple myeloma is the second-fastest growing cancer in men and the third-fastest in women, according to the National Cancer Institute, which estimates about 30,000 cases occur each year in the U.S. Multiple myeloma is a blood cancer involving plasma cells, which are white blood cells that make antibodies to fight infection. Bone pain and unexpected bone breaks are common symptoms.
In addition to multiple myeloma therapy, CAR-T is an emerging therapy being offered and investigated for use against other blood cancers.
As one of just 49 in the country designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute and the only one in North Texas, UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center is offering both treatments and clinical trials in several critical areas:
- Ted Laetsch, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, led the only clinical trial site in the Southwest for a CAR-T treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Results from the trial resulted in FDA approval for the first CAR-T therapy, and Dr. Laetsch is now treating ALL patients who are 25 and under with this CAR-T therapy at the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children's Health.
- In November, the FDA approved a CAR-T treatment for lymphoma, and UT Southwestern physicians soon will be offering this treatment to patients through the Bone Marrow Transplantation/Hematologic Malignancies Clinic at the Simmons Cancer Center.
- As new uses for CAR-T continue to be explored, leadership and guidance on how and when to use these treatments also is needed. Ankit Kansagra, Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, is co-leader of the Global CAR-T Initiative, a group of physicians who are meeting to draw up guidelines for CAR-T use.
The Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer at UT Southwestern, which is recognizing its 75th anniversary this year, is among just 30 U.S. cancer research centers to be designated by the NCI as a National Clinical Trials Network Lead Academic Participating Site. Disclosures: Dr. Anderson is a paid consultant to Celgene Corp., which produces the CAR-T multiple myeloma treatment that is being tested at UT Southwestern; Dr. Laetsch was a paid consultant for Novartis, which makes the CAR-T drug for ALL; Dr. Kansagra indicated “No Interest Reported.”
About UT Southwestern Medical Center
UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution’s faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 22 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 17 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, 600,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 2.2 million outpatient visits a year.