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Smilow Cancer Hospital first in Connecticut to perform CAR T-cell therapy

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

New Haven, Conn. — One of the most promising new generations of cancer treatment called Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy is now available for patients at Smilow Cancer Hospital. CAR T-cell therapy is groundbreaking immunotherapy that can cure patients with certain blood cancers who have run out of treatment options. In Connecticut, the treatment is only available at Smilow Cancer Hospital in partnership with Yale Cancer Center.

“CAR T is an exciting new form of immunotherapy for certain blood cancers that is proving effective in patients with certain recurrent or resistant blood cancers,” said Stuart Seropian, M.D., co-director of the CAR T-Cell Therapy program at Smilow Cancer Hospital, with Iris Isufi, M.D. Both doctors treat patients with blood-related cancers.

CAR T-cell therapy works by reprograming a patient’s own T-cells to target tumor antigens. It has shown complete remission rates of 80 to 90 percent in children with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and 40 to 50 percent in adults with aggressive B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas who have failed other avenues of treatment.

“This treatment has the potential to destroy cancer cells that have evolved mechanisms to escape the normal immune system defenses,” said Isufi. “Response rates surpass those of any currently available therapies in these disease categories. Furthermore, for some patients who achieve complete disease remission, stem cell transplantation may no longer be necessary, sparing them long-term side effects.”

At this time, the therapy is only approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) for patients with childhood (up to age 25) acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common cancer in children, or adult B-cell non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. However, physicians at YCC are conducting clinical trials to test new CAR T-cell therapies against other cancers including mantle cell lymphoma and multiple myeloma. Drs. Seropian and Isufi expect CAR T-cell therapies to be approved for a wider array of lymphomas and leukemias and expanded to include all age groups.

Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven is part of the nationally recognized Yale New Haven Hospital, and is affiliated with Yale Cancer Center (YCC), one of only 56 National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation and the only such center in Connecticut. Smilow Cancer Hospital, the most comprehensive cancer facility in New England, includes private inpatient rooms, multidisciplinary outpatient treatment centers, 12 operating rooms, infusion suites, diagnostic imaging services, and specialized women's and children’s services. Smilow Cancer Hospital also operates a dozen outpatient care centers across Connecticut. YCC and Smilow Cancer Hospital are members of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of 28 cancer centers in the U.S., whose mission is to improve the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of oncology care.