With CAR T cell therapy, doctors at City of Hope enlist your immune system in the fight against cancer

City of Hope

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 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

Our history with CAR T cell therapy dates back to the late 1990s and builds on the pioneering work of Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation. The City of Hope BMT 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 14 consecutive years, according to the Center for International Blood & Marrow Transplant Research.

Currently, we are investigating CAR T cell therapy as a bridge to bone marrow transplant for leukemia and lymphoma patients and are unique in our research of CAR T in combination with transplant.

Smiling Man

Non-Hodgkin lymphoma patient Chuck Fata was nearly out of options when he came to City of Hope for CAR T cell therapy. Three 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 glioblastoma, with trials for additional solid tumors opening in 2019 and beyond. 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.

We have one of the most comprehensive CAR T cell programs in the world, with 16 CAR T clinical trials ongoing and plans to open numerous additional trials in the coming year, including for patients with multiple myeloma, prostate cancer, liver cancer and breast cancer.

Patient-centered Care

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 our patients. City of Hope has the ability to harvest, reprogram, multiply and deliver T cells all on the same campus.

Doctor Monitor

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 our legacy of patient-centered care — treating not just the illness but caring for the entire patient. Our community 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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