City of Hope has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to conduct the first study of a new T-cell therapy for patients facing relapsed B cell lymphoma, the most common type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Stephen J. Forman, M.D., chair of City of Hope’s Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, along with Michael C. Jensen, M.D., professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in Seattle, led the research team that developed this groundbreaking immunotherapy, which uses genetically modified cells from a patient’s own immune system to treat his or her lymphoma.
T-cells are a family of white blood cells that are critical to immune system function. City of Hope has conducted significant research into harnessing these cells to fight disease, helping to confirm the potential of genetically modified T-cells as a treatment for cancer.
“Our use of central memory T-cells as part of a [stem cell] transplant is unique to our therapy and sets our approach apart from other T-cell treatments in development,” said Forman. “Central memory T-cells have the potential to establish a persistent, lifelong immunity to help prevent recurrence of lymphoma after transplant.”
In the new clinical trial, adoptive T-cell therapies are created from healthy T-cells obtained from the patient through blood collection. The T-cells are then genetically modified to recognize certain proteins found in cancer cells.
While the patient undergoes chemotherapy to prepare for a bone marrow transplant, the modified T-cells are cultured over a few weeks to increase their numbers to a level that can fight the cancer. After the transplant, in which the patient’s own healthy blood stem cells are re-infused, the genetically modified T-cells are also infused.
Physicians hope these cells will become part of an anticancer immune system that develops after transplant to fight off the lymphoma, help prevent recurrence and improve the cure rate of the disease.
In October, the phase I clinical trial began enrolling patients with high-risk intermediate grade B cell lymphomas to assess the safety and dosing of the therapy and determine whether the cells can become part of the patients’ developing immune system after a bone marrow transplant.
The promising study, which is funded in part through the support of generous City of Hope donors, offers the hope of better outcomes for lymphoma patients and their families.