Cellular therapy is changing the future of cancer treatment, and for some, that future is here.

In cellular therapy treatments (such as tumor-infiltrating lymphyocytes - TILs - and chimeric antigen receptor - CAR T-cell therapy), immune cells are increased and made more effective to activate the immune system's response into high gear to fight cancer.

This is done by:

  • Taking the patient's own immune cells from the blood or a tumor
  • The cells are expanded and/or modified outside of the body
  • The cells are then infused back into the patient, re-training the immune system to recognize and kill the patient's cancer cells

Clinical trials are bringing these treatments from the lab to the bedside, offering patients a new chance at life. UofL Health's Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy will develop and improve strategies that use the immune system to fight cancer.

Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs)

Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that has left the bloodstream and entered a tumor. A tumor is removed from the patient, and the white blood cells are harvested and isolated. The white blood cells harvested are T-cells. They normally control cancer in the body, but the tumor causes them to stop working. T-cells will take care of the tumor cells once activated and expanded with a growth factor. The TILs procedure activates and expands the white blood cells outside of the body to get ready for infusion back into the patient.

For the infusion, which is similar to a bone marrow transplant, the patient will be in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at UofL Hospital. The patient is then infused with their own T-cells that came from their own tumor, and it activates the immune system to kill the tumor.

TILs trials are currently underway at Brown Cancer Center for melanoma, lung cancer, cervical cancer and head and neck cancer.

Stage IV cancer patients, those who previously may have been told they had no other options, are now taking advantage of TILs and living relatively normal lives. They have been given back more of their time to spend with their loved ones, to see their children graduate or get married and to play with their grandchildren.


CAR T-cell therapy

CAR T-cell therapy is currently used to treat blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. It is being tested with solid tumors and other non-cancer diseases such as HIV and rheumatoid issues.

Brown Cancer Center is now an authorized treatment site to treat patients with Kite’s cell therapies. Brown Cancer Center also offers clinical trials for CAR T-cell therapy where immune cells are genetically modified through the Evan Dunbar Lab, part of UofL’s Dunbar CAR T-cell Program, a good manufacturing practices facility.

CAR T-cell therapy is a cellular therapy uniquely designed to target cancer cells. It powers the immune system to fight
cancer with the patient’s own cells, creating a strong impact against to the cancer’s recurrence. White blood cells are extracted from the patient via a venous catheter.

The cells are sent to Kite where they:

  • Enrich and activate T cells
  • Genetically engineer T-cells to be able to detect and kill cancer cells with a specific target
  • Grow and expand the number of CAR T-cells
  • The cells are then ready for infusion in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at UofL Health – UofL Hospital.
  • The patient receives chemotherapy to open the field for genetically-modified cells, which are infused into the patient,
    powering their immune system to fight cancer.

The patient is admitted to the Bone Marrow Marrow Transplant Unit at UofL Hospital for a "mini bone marrow transplant," where the patient's immune system is wiped clean via chemotherapy. The modified cells are then infused back into the patient where the cells power the immune system to fight cancer and create long-term immunity to the cancer's recurrence.

In addition to dramatic treatment results, CAR T-cell therapy leads to fewer toxic side effects than traditional chemotherapy.

UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center – Blood Cancers, Cellular Therapeutics and Transplant Program is internationally accredited by the Foundation for the Accreditation of Cellular Therapy (FACT), the gold standard of excellence for blood and bone marrow transplant programs in the U.S.

The program is one of only two adult cancer centers in Kentucky to offer a stem cell transplant program, which means patients can receive state-of the-art care close to home.

Our multidisciplinary team works together to develop an effective treatment plan for our patients. We also have specially-trained oncology nurses to care for patients before, during and after treatment; nurse coordinators to help walk patients through the treatment process, including clinical trials; dietitians who support nutritional needs; and social workers who help patients and families overcome limitations or barriers to care.

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