Ochsner MD Anderson Cancer Center in New Orleans is the first medical facility in Louisiana to treat adult patients using CAR T cell therapy.
Cellular Therapy Specialist Dr. Clark Alsfeld says the treatment is also effective against certain types of blood cancers like leukemia.
“It’s a way of essentially reprogramming the immune system. A type of immune cell called the lymphocytes specifically target a protein and it allows for effective destruction of these lymphomas,” Dr. Alsfeld said.
Recent studies show CAR T cell therapy was successful in certain cancer patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after one treatment. Alsfeld says the therapy uses the patient’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells.
“So they’re their own cells that kind of get reprogrammed with this magnet which is the CAR. It sits on the lymphocytes. They then expand them in a lab meaning create many more of them and ship them back to us,” said the doctor.
A patient’s eligibility depends on the type of cancer and previous treatments they have received. Some patients must have gone through multiple unsuccessful treatments.
A New Orleans patient who received CAR T cell therapy in June is in full remission. Alsfeld says the federal government has approved the therapy for its safety and efficacy.
“It’s currently approved for relapsed diffuse large B cell lymphoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, mantle cell lymphoma, and then of course now we have multiple myeloma which has really take off as another frontier,” the doctor said.
An additional patient has started the treatment process and three others are being evaluated to receive treatment by this fall.