SSM Health Medical Minute – New therapy for blood cancer patients providing ‘landscape changing’ results

Medical Minute

ST. LOUIS – Specialists at SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital and SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital have new hope for some cancer patients, through a therapy using the body’s own immune system to fight the disease.

It’s another addition to therapy options for cancer patients at SLU Hospital, home to the only outpatient bone marrow transplant program in the region, offering some patients the ability to go home each evening rather than face a lengthy hospital stay.

Called CAR T-cell therapy, a patient’s white blood cells – the T Lymphocyte – are genetically modified to attack and destroy cancer cells.

“This is quite likely to change the landscape for treatment of blood cancers,” says Mark Fesler, MD, director of the Center for Outpatient Blood and Marrow Transplantation at SLU Hospital and a SLUCare physician.

CAR T-cell therapy is FDA approved for some forms of aggressive, refractory non-Hodgkin lymphoma and for patients with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia up to age 25.

In CAR t-cell therapy, T cells are taken from a patient’s blood, genetically modified and a special receptor called a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) are placed on the patient’s cancer cells. Large quantities of the CAR T-cells are grown in the laboratory and given to the patient through an infusion.

While long-term data on success is still being collected, in clinical trials more than 80 percent of CAR -T cell therapy patients experienced either a complete (no signs of cancer) or partial (some reduction in the extent of the cancer) response.

“This therapy has been in development since the late 1980s and various refinements have come about to improve the efficacy of this treatment,” says Dr. Fesler. “We are excited to offer this to our patients.”  CAR T-cell therapy is also being offered to pediatric patients at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital to eligible patients. 

CAR T-cell therapy is not the right treatment for every patient. Your doctor will consider the type of cancer, past treatments, and your overall health before recommending CAR T-cell therapy.

CAR T-cell therapy is only approved to treat two groups of people with certain types of cancer:

  • Children and young adults up to age 25 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that hasn’t improved with or has returned after treatment
  • Adults with aggressive large B-cell lymphoma that hasn’t improved with or has returned after treatment.

To learn more about CAR T-cell therapy, click here

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