UCSD offers new Immunotherapy for types of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

SAN DIEGO — UC San Diego Health announced Monday it is the first medical center in San Diego County to offer a recently approved type of immunotherapy for certain types of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma outside of clinical trials.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the first chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy drug in August 2017 and approved a second similar drug earlier this year. The drugs genetically modify a cancer patient’s T-cells, or white blood cells, to identify specific proteins found in tumor cells and eradicate them.

“We have a team of physicians who have already treated clinical trial patients with this therapy, and the responses we have seen give us hope that CAR T-cell therapy can help a select group of people get disease remission, at least for some time,” said Dr. Edward Ball, director of the university’s Blood and Marrow Transplant Program.

According to Ball, most of the 11 patients treated with CAR T-cell therapy during the university’s previous clinical trials have gone into remission for at least six months. However, some CAR T-cell therapy recipients may still require blood and marrow transplants and only about 10 percent of lymphoma patients meet the therapy requirements.

One therapy patient, 53-year-old Lawrence Gediman, had unsuccessfully undergone chemotherapy for a year for lymphoma before enrolling in a CAR T-cell therapy trial. One month after enrolling, Gediman went into remission and has remained in remission for 18 months.

“Chemotherapy was a roller-coaster that was much tougher than CAR- T,” Gediman said. “I wish I had the option to do CAR T-cell therapy first. With CAR-T, I had an initial reaction but then I got progressively better. Within a few months, I started to feel normal.”

UCSD is currently running clinical CAR T-cell therapy trials for cancer patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myleoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and chronic lymphocytic leukemia at its cancer care facilities around San Diego County.