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UPMC Hillman Cancer Center First in Western PA to Offer New Immunotherapy for Blood Cancer

PITTSBURGH, Jan. 18, 2018UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is now the only cancer center in western Pennsylvania, and among a select few cancer centers in the nation, certified to offer the latest immunotherapy for patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
 
YESCARTA™ (axicabtagene ciloleucel) CAR-T cell therapy, recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of certain types of large B-cell lymphoma in adult patients, is now available at UPMC.
 
“As cancer researchers and physicians, it is certainly rewarding for us to be among the leading cancer centers in the country to offer this significant advancement for our patients,” said Robert Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., director, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. 
 
“This is an important milestone at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and especially important for our cancer patients, who now will have a treatment option after other treatments have failed them,” said Stanley Marks, M.D., chairman, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. 
 
Approximately 72,000 new cases of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, and the most common type – diffuse large B-cell lymphoma – represents about 1 in 3 newly diagnosed cases.
 
YESCARTA, made from a patient’s own immune system, is used when patients have failed at least two other kinds of treatment. The therapy involves extracting a patient’s white blood cells – or T cells – then genetically engineering them to become chimeric antigen receptor T-cells, or CAR-T cells, so they can recognize and destroy cancer cells when they are infused back into the patient. 
 
“Those of us in the allogeneic blood and marrow transplant field have long known that donor alloreactive T cells can fight lymphoma and leukemia cells,” said Warren Shlomchik, M.D., director of hematopoietic stem cell transplant and cell therapy, and scientific director of the hematopoietic malignancy program, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “YESCARTA is a much more elegant and effective implementation of T cell immunotherapy. We spent a great deal of effort in building and training our cell therapy team of hematologists, ICU physicians, neurologists, nurses, midlevel providers and administrative and clinical research staff.”
 
“What’s most promising about this therapy is that during the clinical trial phase, 51 percent of the patients treated with this therapy experienced complete remission,” said Alison Sehgal, M.D., stem cell transplant oncologist, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “That type of response is unheard of for this aggressive form of cancer. But there is more research that needs to be done to discover why it doesn’t always work for every patient.”
 
UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is the region’s only comprehensive cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute. With more than 60 UPMC Hillman Cancer Centers in four states, more patients have access to clinical trials and new cancer treatments through this vast network.
 
To learn more about YESCARTA™ CAR-T cell therapy, visit the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center website.

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