Ochsner MD Anderson First to Treat Adult Patient with CAR T Cell Therapy

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NEW ORLEANS  – The Ochsner MD Anderson Cancer Center at the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center said it is the first institution in Louisiana to treat adult patients using CAR T cell therapy, a new treatment for certain types of blood cancers.

A New Orleans patient received CAR T cell therapy in June under the guidance of Clark Alsfeld, a hematologist/oncologist and cellular therapy specialist. The cancer center said the patient is in full remission. 

CAR T cell therapy, also known as chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy, is a form of immunotherapy treatment that harnesses a patient’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells.

“While a patient’s cancer journey can be challenging, CAR T cell therapy empowers the immune system to rise as a force against cancer cells — paving the way for advancements in ending cancer,” said Alsfeld in a press release. “At Ochsner MD Anderson, we are continuously striving to treat our patients with some of the latest and most effective treatment options to give them more good days with their families. We are thrilled that our first CAR T cell patient’s treatment was successful and look forward to helping more people.”

During CAR T therapy, a patient’s T cells are extracted, then genetically modified in a laboratory to express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface. These CARs are designed to recognize specific proteins, known as antigens, that are present on the surface of cancer cells. Once the T cells are modified and expanded in number, they are infused back into the patient’s bloodstream. The engineered CAR T cells then seek out and bind to the cancer cells, leading to their destruction.

Ochsner MD Anderson said CAR T cell therapy is particularly effective against certain types of blood cancers, such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia, certain types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma and multiple myeloma. 

Patient eligibility depends on the type of cancer and prior treatment—some must have already gone through multiple unsuccessful standard treatments. However, recent studies have even shown a benefit for CAR T cell therapy in certain patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after one line of therapy, said an Ochsner spokesperson.

Clinical trials at Ochsner MD Anderson and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston are evaluating CAR T cell therapy as first-line treatment in non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Ochsner/MD Anderson said CAR T cell therapy is very promising, with significant remission rates observed in patients who have not responded to standard cancer treatments. The therapy represents a momentous advancement in cancer treatment and has the potential to revolutionize the way certain types of cancers are managed. Ongoing research and development are focused on expanding its use to other cancer types, including solid tumors, and improving its safety and efficacy. 

Since Ochsner MD Anderson’s first CAR T cell patient’s therapy in June, its Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapy team has begun the CAR T cell treatment process on one additional patient and is currently evaluating three others, with more patients to receive the treatment this fall.

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