New cancer treatment option available at Nebraska Med

February 21, 2018 GMT

People with certain types of recurring blood cancers now can receive a new form a treatment at Nebraska Medicine in Omaha.

Chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy was approved Monday for commercial use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The therapy, meant for patients with recurring non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and pediatric or young-adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia, is among a growing number of cancer-treatment options that harness the body’s immune system to attack tumors.

Nebraska Medicine was one of the first centers in the Midwest to provide CAR T-cell therapy. Following a clinical trial for the therapy, doctors at Nebraska Medicine were excited to see it become a viable treatment option.

“This is a big home run for patients who have failed every other type of cancer treatment,” said Dr. Julie Vose, chief of hematology and oncology.

Vose explained how the treatment worked Monday at a news conference.

“T-cells are white blood cells that help our bodies fight infection and cancer,” she said. “In some patients with lymphomas and leukemias, their T-cells don’t recognize the cancer as being abnormal and this allows the cancers to grow. This new therapy allows us to take the patient’s own T cells outside the body and re-stimulate them to fight their own cancer.”

During the first phase of CAR T-cell therapy, a patient’s T-cells are collected in an outpatient procedure at the hospital and sent to a pharmaceutical lab, where they are genetically modified and grown until there are millions of them. Then they are infused into the patient to multiply, attack and kill the cancerous cells.

The CAR T-cells remain in the body long after the infusion is complete, and help prevent lymphoma or leukemia from recurring.

All Nebraska Medicine staff involved with the therapy went through a training program before the center could be approved to administer the treatment. It’s now the only health care network in Nebraska to offer CAR T-cell therapy.

To find out if you’re a candidate for the therapy, call Nebraska Medicine at 402-559-5600 to schedule an evaluation.