John Theurer Cancer Center First NJ Site Certified to offer CAR-T Cell Cancer Therapy

Published: Friday, Mar 09, 2018

(Hackensack, N.J.)  -- John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack Meridian Health Hackensack University Medical Center is among limited U.S. sites, and the only hospital in New Jersey certified to offer Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel), a cell-based gene therapy, to treat adult patients with certain types of large B-cell lymphoma who have not responded or who have relapsed after at least two other kinds of treatment.

“John Theurer Cancer Center has been involved in CAR-T cell therapy research for nearly a decade,” said André Goy, M.D., chairman and executive director of the John Theurer Cancer Center, chief of the Lymphoma Division, professor of medicine at Georgetown University. Dr. Goy co-authored the study, Axicagagene Ciloleucel (CD19 CAR T) in Refractory Large B-Cell Lymphoma, presented at the 59th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Hematology and published on December 10, 2017 in the New England Journal of Medicine. “This new therapeutic modality represents the first gene modified cell based live therapy approved for adults, and will radically change the paradigm in several subtypes of hematological malignancies or blood cancers.”

Each dose of CAR-T cell therapy is a customized treatment created using a patient’s own immune system to help fight the lymphoma. The patient’s T-cells, a type of white blood cell, are collected and genetically modified to include a new gene that targets and kills the lymphoma cells. Once the cells are modified, they are infused back into the patient.

“Our world-renowned cancer experts have helped pioneer immune-based advancements like CAR-T cell therapy,” said Robert C. Garrett, co-CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health. “With the depth and breadth of experience among our multidisciplinary oncology team, John Theurer Cancer Center is treating the most complex and difficult cases.”

Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) is the most common type of Non Hodgkins Lymphoma (NHL) in adults. NHLs are cancers that begin in certain cells of the immune system and can be either fast-growing (aggressive) or slow-growing. Approximately 72,000 new cases of NHL are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and DLBCL represents approximately one in three newly diagnosed cases.

Yescarta was approved by the FDA for use in adult patients with large B-cell lymphoma after at least two other kinds of treatment failed, including DLBCL, primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma, high grade B-cell lymphoma and DLBCL arising from follicular lymphoma.

The first CAR-T cell therapy, Kymriah, was approved in 2017 by the FDA to treat children and young adults who have a challenging form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Hackensack University Medical Center was also the first hospital in NJ certified to offer this therapy for patients up to age 25.

“The recent certifications of John Theurer Cancer Center and Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital to provide CAR-T cell therapy reflect Hackensack University Medical Center’s commitment to research and innovation in the provision of the highest quality cancer care,” said Ihor S. Sawczuk, M.D., FACS, president of Hackensack University Medical Center.

“Our pediatric oncology immunotherapy program will target a common childhood leukemia. Eligible patients will have exhausted all standard therapies and have refractory disease or have relapsed,” said Alfred P. Gillio, M.D., co-director, Children’s Cancer Institute, section chief, Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation. “This therapy has resulted in long-term remissions in the majority of patients treated to date and is a major advance in the search for a cure for childhood leukemia.”

“CAR T-cell therapy is the next-generation therapy to augment stem cell transplantation,” said Andrew L. Pecora, M.D., FACP, CPE, president of Physician Enterprise and chief innovation officer, Hackensack Meridian Health, and professor of medicine and oncology at Georgetown University. “John Theurer Cancer Center has some of the most experienced physicians in cell-based therapies in the world to safely deliver CAR T-cells.”

John Theurer Cancer Center Involvement

John Theurer Cancer Center has been involved in several studies of CAR T-cells since the National Cancer Institute’s original study (J Clin Oncol 2015;33:540-549), and is one of the limited centers nationwide offering this new technology. With more than 6,500 stem cell transplants performed to date, including 40 percent allogeneic transplants, John Theurer Cancer Center has an excellent reputation and strong team with extensive experience in cell therapy. This includes donor lymphocyte infusion that is given to prevent or fight relapse in high-risk patients with blood cancers.

“The high CR rate and durability of responses seen with anti-CD19 CAR T-cells suggest this therapy could have the potential for a cure in a population of heavily pretreated B-cell ALL or DLBCL patients who have no available or lasting options in that setting,” Dr. Goy said. “Though much still needs to be learned about mechanisms of resistance and persistence of CAR T-cells in vivo, as well as biomarkers predictive of response, the primary factor of efficacy seems to be the initial amplification of T-cells after reinfusion.”

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