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CAR-T Immunotherapy

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Dr. Michelle P. Hudspeth with a patient.

Advances in Cellular, Gene & Immune Therapies

The adult and pediatric CAR T-cell immunotherapy programs were successfully launched this year at MUSC Health. These programs provide adoptive cell transfer therapy, which is ap-proved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of children and adults with B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) who haven’t responded to standard treatment or have had the cancer recur.

MUSC Health has the only combined adult and pediatric blood and marrow transplant program in the state accredited by the Foundation for Accreditation of Cellular Therapy. It also has the necessary clinical expertise and infrastructure in place to treat all and handle the challenging side effects of adoptive cell treatment. According to Michelle P. Hudspeth, M.D., medical director of the Blood & Marrow Transplant Program at MUSC Health and director of the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at MUSC Children’s Health, “CAR-T cell therapy depends on the very infrastructure that we use every day. This includes bone marrow transplant coordinators, hemapheresis nurses, cryopreservation technologists, oncology physicians, critical care physicians, and critical care nurses.” During the treatment, T cells, which play a key role in the immune system, are removed from the patient. They are genetically altered to produce chimeric anti-gen receptors or T-cell receptors, which recognize and target proteins specifically linked to cancer and then return them to the patient’s body.

Clinical trials have shown CAR-T cell treatment to be effective, but the treatment does come with risks including cytokine-release syndrome, B-cell aplasia and tumor lysis syndrome. But for patients with few or no other options, the treatment is a welcome new source of hope.

It may also be effective for fighting other types of cancer. CAR-T cell immunotherapy is being tested as a possible treatment for blood, brain, breast, gastrointestinal, lung, ovarian, pancreatic and skin cancer.

Bringing CAR-T cell immunotherapy to MUSC Health also offers the additional benefit of convenience for patients. “We are here to make sure patients get whatever therapy they need in South Carolina,” says Hudspeth. “It has a major impact for the patient and their family to get treatment close to home.”