When other therapies fail, adults with blood cancers can turn to the innovative CAR T-cell therapy for a chance at recovery.
The UK Markey Cancer Center was the first hospital in Kentucky to offer groundbreaking CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy treatment for adults with blood cancers.
In only four years, this program has grown from five patients in 2018 to around 40 in 2021.
“CAR T-cells provide an opportunity for long-term remissions, if not a cure, for some blood cancers in patients who in the past had a very limited
chance,” said Dr. Gerhard C. Hildebrandt, director of Markey’s CAR T-cell therapy program.
CAR T-cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy that uses the body’s own cells to fight cancer. Immune cells (T-cells) are removed from the patient’s
body before being genetically modified by adding chimeric antigen receptor therapy to them. The CAR then reprograms the T-cells to fight specific cancers, and the cells are infused back into the patient.
This is usually a one-time therapy that can be performed outpatient or inpatient. If relapse occurs, a second infusion may be necessary.
CAR T-cell therapy is an option for those who have failed other therapies. At Markey, it is used to treat:
- Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
- Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma
- Follicular lymphoma
- Mantle cell lymphoma
- Multiple myeloma
- Primary mediastinal B-cell lymphoma
- Transformed follicular lymphoma
“CAR T-cells provide an opportunity for long-term remissions, if not a cure, for some blood cancers in patients who in the past had a very limited chance.”
Dr. Gerhard C. Hildebrandt
Side effects vary but can include cytokine release syndrome with fever and shortness of breath, neurotoxicity, infections, and low blood counts. Patients and referring providers shouldn’t shy away from this promising treatment because of potential side effects, though.
“These side effects are very manageable,” Hildebrandt said.
An upcoming trial at Markey will study the effectiveness and safety of an off-the-shelf product that uses donor CAR T-cells instead of a patient’s cells. Using donor cells could significantly reduce the time it takes to deliver treatment, from three or four weeks to just a few days.
Several companies currently study and manufacture CAR T-cell therapy products for different diseases. Hildebrandt hopes to expand Markey’s program so more patients can receive this treatment for other conditions. His goal is to engage with more industry partners, expand collaborations with academic centers and potentially bring CAR T-cell development in-house. Doing so could help bypass production shortages, reduce treatment costs and strengthen Markey’s position as the key immunotherapy center in
Hildebrandt, together with associate medical director Dr. Chait Iragavarapu, lead pharmacist Jessica Cupać and program administrator Jennifer Biser, leads Markey’s CAR T-cell therapy team.
To refer a patient for CAR T-cell therapy or to learn more about the program, contact CARTatMarkey@uky.edu. You can also make a referral request to the Markey Hematology Clinic through UK•MDs at 800-888-5533 or through EpicCare Link.